Křtiny Ossuary – Křtiny, Czechia - Atlas Obscura

Křtiny Ossuary

Křtiny, Czechia

Mysterious painted skulls in Moravia. 


It’s tough out there for the average to small-sized ossuary in the Czech Republic. There are the feelings of neglect and rejection when tourists won’t give you the time of day. And of course the crisis of comparing your bone collection to the massive Sedlec Ossuary, that houses 40,000 human remains. But there is an advantage to being the black sheep of the Czech ossuaries. Křtiny Ossuary has character.

The little town of Křtiny has only 800 inhabitants and it’s a bit off the beaten path from tourist-heavy Prague. But the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary and its basement ossuary make a trip worthwhile. The ossuary holds the remains of 1,000 people and is most notable for its mysterious painted skulls. Similar to the skulls at the Hallstatt Charnel House, the skulls were decorated with a black-dyed laurel wreath.

Although not every skull was decorated as such, there are no other ossuaries in the Czech Republic with designed skulls and the practice was centered much further West in Europe. Some experts suggest that the practice made its way to Křtiny with a wealthy family wanting to carry on the Austrian tradition. Whatever the reason, the 12 painted skulls have fascinated visitors and made a name for the small Moravian ossuary.

For more information on amazing ossuaries, charnels and skeletal remains around the world, visit Paul Koudounaris’ website Empire de la Mort, or purchase his definitive book The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses.

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