Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Capuchin Monastery Catacombs

In honor of October and Halloween being just around the corner, Travel Tuesday will be taking you to some of the more macabre sights of the Czech lands. In Brno, the second-largest city in the Czech Republic, you can find a Capuchin monastery with a large network of catacombs filled with mummies.

That’s right – mummies. Mummified monks, to be exact. The church was built in the 17th-century and the unique composition of the soil and dry air came together to create the perfect environment for natural mummification. While the monks never intended to preserve their fallen brothers, their vows of poverty and the catacombs’ climate led to an inexpensive and easy way to dispose of the deceased. This went on for 300 years, until at the end of the 18th century, Emperor Joseph demanded a more hygienic means of disposal.

Today, visitors to the catacombs can see about 150 bodies that were laid to rest before 1784, including monks, townspeople, and a few noblemen, including Baron von Trenck, a soldier, adventurer, gambler and womanizer. The Baron, while not an upstanding moral citizen, had bequeathed a lot of money to the monastery and was rewarded by being laid to rest in a glass coffin in his own room. (His thumb and head, however, have been stolen since his demise.)

The site isn’t for the squeamish. Bodies of monks rest directly on the floor and several, due to the mummification process, look as though they did not go peacefully. A grim reminder lies above an arched vault; part of the wall is inscribed, “As you are now, we once were, as we are now, you shall become."

-Heather Tinley, Opera Colorado Marketing Coordinator

No comments:

Post a Comment