Aitre St. Maclou – Rouen, France - Atlas Obscura

Aitre St. Maclou

An ancient ossuary in Rouen. 


Although this ‘aitre’ now holds more students than bones, you can still find a mummified cat and morbid carvings in the old timber walls.

The grounds of the Aitre de St. Maclou have been steadily used as burial grounds since Roman times. However, during the Black Death of 1348 when 3/4 of the area’s inhabitants died, the site became a burgeoning cemetery. By the 1520’s more room was needed and in 1533 construction was finished on the East, West and North aboveground ossuary galleries.

The wooden frames of the buildings were ornamented with macabre details: skulls, bones, shovels, pickaxes, cult objects and other reminders of the aitre’s purpose. In 1705 the buildings were emptied and destined to be a school for poor boys. Despite damage from war, revolution and naughty pupils the site stands today and is still a fine arts school.

For curious corpse-seekers looking for remains, there is a mummified cat under glass in the wall near the entrance. The cat was found in the wall and it is assumed that this was a black cat used to ward off all manner of evil.

Know Before You Go

On Rue de Martainville, look for a small archway, not obvious. The archway is number 186 and is signed Aître Saint-Maclou.

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October 7, 2011

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