Nearly two hours outside of the Swiss Alps in the small town of Naters is a 16th century ossuary filled with hidden wonders.
Constructed in 1514 by Ulrich Ruffiner, the ossuary houses more than 31,000 skulls, including 1,857 that are visible from the front wall. The upper floor of the ossuary is home to a chapel dedicated to St. Anna. The bones housed below were sourced from the town’s old cemetery which surrounded the church until 1869. Apart from a few minor renovations conducted during the mid-late 1980s, the ossuary has remained virtually untouched since its creation.
During renovations, the northern opening of the ossuary was placed behind a barred wall to protect the skulls from theft. The construction of the wall was a welcome addition as it has protected the site and had helped preserve the skulls, many of which are entirely intact.
Amid the skulls on the northern wall, a central support beam contains the inscription, “Was ihr seid, das waren wir, Was wir sind, das werdet ihr,” which translates to, “What you are, we have been, What we are, you will be.”
It’s a poetic reminder of the fleeting nature of our existence.
Know Before You Go
The north wall is the primary region that is visible. The ossuary is open to the public all day, year-round.