For the Bohemian queens and princess, it was a raw deal, for the other 15,000 skeletons in this crypt, it was an upgrade to nicer digs.
The crypt under the St Peter and Paul’s church in Melník was intended to be a holy burial ground for Bohemia's queens and princesses, but in the 1520’s a plague epidemic swept through the area, creating a huge demand for burial ground. The corpses which had been occupying the cemeteries surround the church were promptly dug up, and some 15,000 corpses were cleaned and dumped into the vault.
That is basically all it was a pile of bones, and in the 1780s when ossuaries were declared a health risk, the vault was bricked up and forgotten about for some 230 years, until a Czech anthropologist, Jindrich Matiegka, decided to take a look for himself.
Matiegka is considered one of the fathers of Czech anthropology and spent a considerable amount of time studying skeletons, crypts and ossuaries throughout then Czechoslovakia. In the 1910s Matiegka re-opened the entrance to the crypt and began arranging the bones into his very own ossuary.
Arranged with a "literate theology" Matiegka arranged the bones into orderly piles and meaningful patterns. The largest pile can be seen directly in front of the entrance and is 15 feet square and over 6 feet high, and believed to contain roughly 10,000 skeletons.
Matiegka arranged the other 5000 skeletons into a large cross of bones decorated with a palm frond, skulls into a heart shape representing love, and most notably built "a long, deep tunnel primarily constructed of leg bones" to represent Christ's resurrection. Professor, anthropologist, and religious man, Matiegka definitely had a Gothic streak. As a kind of signature Matiegka wrote the Latin inscription ‘Ecce mors’; ‘Behold death’ spelled out in bones.
Today you can still visit the ossuary, as well as the lovely church above it. It is open daily except Mondays and costs 30 K?.