By Amanda Little
If you've got a bone to pick, you may want to start with these eight. Most avid travelers know about the morbid Parisian Catacombs winding their way beneath the city, but there are many more macabre monoliths dotting the globe than we realize. Humans have had to get creative in times of famine, war, and plague, and its dangerously beautiful.
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Enter a shrine made up of over 3,000 skulls and even more shin bones, and yes, all of them are human. Priest Vaclav Tomaszek found his morbid construction materials from humans who died in the Thirty Years' War and disease victims. Assmbled from 1776 to 1804, this macabre sight is as stunning as it is creepy.
Standing a grisly 15 feet tall, the Skull Tower of Nis was constructed with a very clear message in mind to all who saw it: attack at your own risk. Turkish general Hurshid Pasha decided to make a tower using the skulls of his enemies, and pulled almost a thousand skulls from rebels during the first Serbian uprising to create it.
Lurking at the bottom of a pit and only able to be viewed through plexiglass from above, the remains of 5800 Austrians are the building blocks, or bones, of the stunning Eggenburg Charnel. This lesser known ghoulish attraction was constructed in 1405, though mentions of it go back as far as 1229, and the bones are beautifully arranged into a design to compliment the cylinder-like cavern they rest in.
Be sure to heed the sign at the entrance of Our Lady of the Conception of the Capuchins: "As you are, we once were. As we are, you shall one day be," to really set the mood for this adventure. Wander through 6 alcoves where around 4,000 human remaind are laid out in meticulous patterns and deathly beautiful designs beneath the Roman church in Italy. To really get a good spook, go looking for the bodies of the friars that have been arranged and propped up under flowing robes that hang loosly off their grinning skulls.
Again, adventure beneath a church, this one is the Church of All Saints in the Czech Republic, to wander among the reamains of about 70,000 plague and Hussite War victims. These bones have been carefully dismembered, cleaned, and reassembled into amazing works of art like chandeliers, chalices, and family crests. Biblical beasts rise from the bleached bones, and a chill runs down visitors' spines.
Not all cultures bury their dead, for example: the indigenous Bali Aga people throughout Bali and Insonesia. The Bali Aga of Trunyan Village leave their dead exposed to the elements to decompose, yet there is no smell of death. They leave their dead under a Taru Menyan tree, which is highly fragrant but the locals call it magic. Sailing out in the water, you can catch a strong whiff of the decaying bodies, but standing in the cemetery, the tree does seem to absorb it all. Caught bewteen a lake and a volcano with human remains serving as a prominant part of everyday life, the Trunyan village is a little morbid, a little magic, and absolutely amazing.
Search for the Golden Chamber in the Basilica of St. Ursula to find the remains of St. Ursula and (allegedly) 11,000 virgins. The legend goes that Urusula was a princess and wanted to travel, so she and her 11,000 virgin friends set sail and mistakenly landed in Rome, where they were captured and beheaded by Huns. While there was a mass grave site found, and these bones now reside in the Golden Chamber, its much more likely that the bones are from a mix of Romans and perhaps some of Ursula's band of virgins, however some of the skulls are clearly canine, but it does not detract from the beautiful patterns, gold and silver adornment, and bones arranged to spell out "Holy Ursula, Pray For Us."
Pass beneath the sign declaring “We bones, are here, waiting for yours” to witness about 5,000 corpses set into the walls, all victims of war, plague, and overflowing cemeteries. Along with a small white coffin by the altar, which contains the bones of the three monks who founded the church, two corpses also hang from chains next to a cross, leading the way to the much more uplifting Latin phrases featured above the altar: “I die in the light” and “The day that I die is better than the day that I was born.”