Posts Tagged ‘Church’

Hellstatt, Austria is a beautiful town area and sits on a forested mountain, with a blue lake and 19th Century Houses. There is one room some might not see that way, located behind the Catholic Church is the Hallstatt Beinhaus (a well tended cemetery), and there is a charnel house. A small building which has over 1200 skulls.

In the 1700’s the church began to dig up old graves, they needed the space for new burials. The bodies were around 10-15 years old and stacked in the charnel house, their skeletons were then bleached in the sun and family members would stack the bones next to their nearest kin.

In the 1720’s a tradition of painting the skulls with symbolic decorations started. The dates of birth and death, names and decorations helped keep their memory, if they could no longer keep their grave. The older skulls seem to have darker paint schemes and slowly the tradition died out.

Next to the cross, with a gold tooth, is the skull of a woman who died in 1983 with her last wish being to join the painted skulls. Placed in the Beinhaus in 1995 hers was the last to be added.

Hallstatt Beinhaus, an Austrian house of bones filled with hundreds of painted skulls.

 Hallstatt - Beinhaus 2a

It is called The Museum of the Holy Souls in Purgatory but it is not so much a museum as a collection. The small room sits inside the church of the Sacred Holy Heart just along the Tiber River not too far from the Vatican.

The display centralises on the Catholic idea that souls go to purgatory, they are purified of their remaining sins before they can ascent to heaven. To help souls go to heaven quicker the faithful can offer prayer, before the reformation it was a common practise to buy loved ones swifter entry with the good old value of mortal cash.

Amongst the cases you can see the nightcap of a man who discovered asking him to pray for her. Another is from 1789 where there is a hand-print on the nightshirt that Joseph Leleux had, the mark was made by the tortured soul of his mother who appeared to him and reminded him of his duties to go to mass and begged him to change his behaviour and go back to church.

The museum/collection is mentioned on the website Atlas Obscura and a few other sites, they say the collection comes from the French Missionary, Father Jouet. They story is that there was a painting, Our Lady of the Rosary, that caught fire from candles around it. Witnesses said they had seen the face of a man in the altars burning walls, he was convinced that it was a message from a soul buried in the area and that he should build a church there, and make it a place to pay tribute to the souls in purgatory.

Admission is free but they will welcome any donation to the church that you can make. If you have been, or do go, please let me know and share your experiences.

The museum is in the Church of Sacro Cuore del Suffragio, 12 Lungotevere Prati, Rome. Open 7.30-11am and 4.30-7pm.


This is a chapel located on Via Francesco de Sanctis 19, Naples, Italy and its proper name is Chapel of Santa Maria della Pietà, or the Pietatella with plenty of prominent Italian artists from the 18th Century having contributed to it’s look. In 1590 John Francesco di Sangro was recovering from serious illness and had a private chapel built. It was converted to a family burial chapel by Alessandro di Sangro in 1613 and until 1888 it has a passageway from Sansevero to the chapel.

It has a noteable 30 works of art, but the reason I have picked this for my blog is the rather more macabre piece. I am sure you expected that by now. So the chapel has two early “anatomical models” or macchione anatomiche that were thought for some time to be either early attempts at what we now know as plastination or perhaps even human metallization (metallizzazione umana). They were commissioned around 1760 by Raimondo di Sangro by anatomist Giuseppe Salerno.

The exhibit is of a mature male and a pregnant woman, the skeletons are encased in hardened arteries and veins coloured in reds and blues. They thought that it might have been made by taking the corpses and injecting them with a hardening substance, into the living body! However a more recent analysis gives a better view as to what occurred. They found that the construction of the décor on the skeletons involves wire, silk and beeswax. There seems to be no record of how the skeletons were obtained though, were they murdered for their bodies or were they selected?

More here! Photo credits are also in this article.



Eccles has the remains of a village, it was claimed by the sea in the 17th Century. The storm that night also took over seventy houses and 300 hundred lives, no doubt then that the area has a story or two to tell, and that it is said on the low tides there are places to see parts of the village under the water.  It stuck in my mind as a child when my uncle told me that people had claimed to hear the bells on the low tide but hearing them portents death and storms.

A search about this area says that skeletons from the Churchyard still wash up ashore on occasion. The tower of the church was visible in 1986 when there was a fall in the sea level low enough to expose some of the Eccles area and Happisburg looks like it might follow the same fate. A shame too as it has rather interesting little stories that might not get a chance to be visited if this does happen, Coastal erosion seems to be threatening the area but it seems that the defences are not being bolstered at this point.

And now on to  the ghost! The spectre was first reported 1765 with two farmers making their way home, they were frightened by a hump-backed shape in the moonlight and as their eyes adjusted they realised the human (?) had neither legs nor a head. However as it came near them they saw it did indeed possess a head but the strange hump was the nearly severed one that rested on its back attached to the neck by a thin strip of flesh.

The spectre/shade they reported had apparently got on sailor’s attire, and against its chest clasped a rough brown sack. It was followed by the two scared but curious men, who watched it disappear into a wall, before they left to inform the village council. It was decided they would put the story to the test and investigated the well it had disappeared into.  A man was lowered down and he found a sack which was apparently the one that matched the description of their ghost, inside they found a pair of boots in it but more disturbingly they found the man’s legs still inside them.

The well was then drained, they found another sack with a torso in sailors clothing and then attached to it by a narrow ribbon of rotted skin was the head. Around the body’s waist they found a belt with a pistol tucked into it, the villagers then traced the tracks back and found signs of a fight, it was felt that smugglers had begun a fight over their spoils and the other had been shot and hacked up before being deposited down the well.

The ghost appeared regularly on moonlit nights and was heard moaning at the bottom of the well, that is until it was closed over by a pump, all seemed well until the pump was removed and the horrid groans were heard once more. They decided to recap the well with the pump and it went quiet once more but then again when it went quiet they removed it and sure enough the ghostly figure began to float around once more.

Or the Covenanters’ Prison, is in Edinburgh. A historical part of the city too as it has had burials there since the 16th Century and has some notable figures there. 1200 Covenanters were imprisoned in a field to the south of the Churchyard and later in the 18th Century the field became part of the churchyard with vaulted tombs and got it’s nickname.

A sweet story of the Greyfriar’s Bobby also comes from here, a loyal dog that guarded his grave. His headstone is at the entrance to the cemetery and the grave of his master John Grey, an Edinburgh police officer, is buried around 30 metres north to the cemetery entrance. The stone is modern as the grave was originally unmarked.

This is also a good place to see Mortsafe’s (search my earlier posts for more on those) amongst burials of some notable historian’s, architects and Colonel Francis Charteris, a member of the Hell-Fire Club.

As with all things I seem to write about, we’re into the supernatural now. Rumours have it that Greyfriars cemetery is haunted.  One has been attributed to “Bloody” George Mackenzie buried 1691, he causes bites, bruises, scratches and many visitors report strange feelings.