Memento Mori: Chapel Of Skulls And Bones

Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau Nieto

Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau Nieto

Thus it came to pass that between the years of Our Lord 1618 and 1648, the battles of the Thirty Years War  ravaged Europe. Immeasurable was the cost of the war. Many millions perished of military actions, plagues, hunger or disease. Many people died in it or were born and died on its ruins…

Then, not quite as many as hundred of the Lord’s years came to pass, and the great European struggle called the War of the Austrian Succession led to 3 more wars. These were the three  Silesian Wars: 1740–42, 1740–42, and the Seven Years’ War, 1756–62.

In a word of lesser fancifulness, should one have lived between the years of 1776 and 1804 in south-western Poland, there would’ve been plenty of skulls and bones laying around to celebrate Death.

A priest, named Vaclav Tomasek, was such a man. Between 1776 and 1804, he visited grave-sites where the fallen warriors, civilians killed in the Silesian  and the Thirty Years’ War, thousands who died of plagues and cholera were buried, or just barely covered by soil. He’d found lots of skulls and bones, as if the earth refused to take in quite as many.

Father Tomasek collected and cleaned skeletal remains and placed them in the walls and ceilings of the chapel Kaplica Czaszek in the old town of Czermna, Poland. On the outside, the chapel  looks as pretty and tranquil as they come.

Kaplica Czasze. 

Inside, however, it’s the veritable House of Skulls.

A step inside Kaplica Czasze in south-western Poland reveals a chilling site. Thousands of human bones, ravaged by war and disease, are stacked on top of each to construct the building's walls and ceilings.

Kaplica Czaszek.Thousands of human skulls and bones, ravaged by war and disease, are  embedded into the walls and ceiling.

Some articles say it a “gruesome sight”, “morbid”, “chilling”…

The chapel was created after a local priest, named Vaclav Tomasek, visited shallow grave sites commemorating the fallen soldiers and civilians killed in the Silesian Wars and the Thirty Years' War as well as those devastated by plagues and cholera

Intricate ornament created out of thousands of bones. 

On the church’s altar, Father Tomasek placed the “important skulls”, if such were identified, and also the “skulls of interest” — an unusual bones malformed by disease, as if to distinguish those who suffered in death.

The interior reveals a repetitive pattern repeated a thousand times. It is designed to be 'a celebration of oneness' as well as a reminder of mortality

Repeated a thousand times, the pattern of death…  Memento Mori. 

After seeing the poignant reminder of those who had fallen, Mr Tomasek collected and cleaned skeletal remains, embedding them in the chapel walls between 1776 and 1804


Remember those who died. Memento Mori.  Still, whether you do or not, it remembers you… and you… and you, too.

Located in the old town of Czermna, Poland, the skeletons were placed in the walls and ceilings of the chapel between 1776 and 1804


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