How much time people spend thinking about what will happen to them after they die fascinates me.
In fact, I feel that it is safe to assume that this thought is universal to all living humans in one way or another.
Death and what will become of our bodies and souls after it occurs is an important issue for most all of us. After all, we matter to ourselves and to others, so the thought of disappearing and no longer existing as we know it or to be separated from our loved ones can weigh heavily on many of us and be deeply disturbing.
Is there a Heaven? Will we be reincarnated? Does everything go black (or white)? And the greatest fear of many—will I go to Hell?
These questions are so important that they motivate many of us to act in certain ways while living out our lives. We do this through customs and practices of religious and spiritual beliefs that are core motivators for many people around the world. Everything from the clothes we wear, to certain hairstyles that we keep, to the food that we eat and even religious or spiritual gatherings that we attend can attest to our belief systems.
What’s also intriguing to me is that while my guess is people worry more about where their spirits go, they also spend quite a bit of time thinking about what they want done with their bodies after their life on this earth ceases to exist.
There are many options out there—burial in the ground or at sea or cremation. There are even some people who pay large amounts of money to have their bodies or heads frozen in the hopes that they can come back when science catches up to being able to bring their dead bodies or minds back to life.
There are literally thousands of different ways that death has been and is currently being dealt with throughout history and within its different cultures and religions.
I recently came across a unique situation of a chapel that has done something radical with many people’s skeletal remains.
There is a Roman Catholic Church in the Czech Republic called the Cemetery Church of All Saints that looks completely normal from the exterior.
One might think it was just like any other chapel inside, but how wrong they would be to assume this.
It’s a popular tourist attraction, attracting over 200,000 people each year, and the name is telling. Once one steps inside, they are presented with the bones from 40,000 to 70,000 human bodies that are arranged in art forms that adorn everything from the ceiling to the walls of this quaint chapel.
The bodies were originally buried in a cemetery during the plague in the 14th century during the Black Death. In the 1400s, all of the bones were exhumed and put in the Sedlec Ossuary below the church that was built on top of the exhumed cemetery. An ossuary by definition means “a chest, building, well, or site made to serve as the final resting place of human skeletal remains”.
The resulting artwork, if one would choose to call it that, it quite astounding. What is shown here is just a small sampling of the array of bones (who were once people) and the ways in which they have been arranged.
I’m not sure that a visit here would be my cup of tea, but it is surely interesting, even if it is more than a bit creepy.
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Editor: Catherine Monkman