Brno Ossuary is an underground ossuary. It was rediscovered in 2001 in the historical centre of the city, partially under the Church of St. James. It is estimated that the ossuary holds the remains of over 50 thousand people which makes it the second-largest ossuary in Europe, after the Catacombs of Paris. It's been opened to public since June 2012.

A three-chamber crypt was established under the paved floor of St. James’ Church for these purposes probably in the 17th century. At the beginning the crypt filled slowly, but from the mid-18th century two large symmetric walls of remains from emptied church sepulchres were gradually built there. The rapid filling of the charnel houses was partly due to frequent plague and cholera epidemics that literally decimated the population. The ongoing lack of space for bones from emptied graves required that the charnel house be extended in 1741. The best solution appeared to be the extension of the new ossuary under the cemetery and its connection to the church crypt. The new ossuary, however, was filled in six years and the town council began to discuss its further extension with a connection to the Chapel of the Dead near the church. However, the construction of the connecting corridor was prematurely terminated in the middle of its originally planned length, and thus the original plan has never been implemented.

When both the crypt and the ossuary under the cemetery were full, the entrance staircase from the main nave of the church was sealed with a Latin-inscribed stone slab. Josephine reforms in 1784 led to abolishing the church cemetery for hygiene reasons. The remains from the graves were placed in the crypt, the cemetery walls were pulled down, and the area around the church was paved with unnecessary tombstones. The ossuary, its size, and location fell into oblivion after some time.

In 2001 an archaeological and underground survey was carried out before starting the renovation of the Jakubské square, and its findings were a great surprise. Several pilot bore holes to the depth of four metres confirmed the existence of a large burial complex. The individual rooms were filled with huge volumes of human bones often up to the vault arches. The estimated number of people buried there exceeded 50 thousand. The anthropological analyses carried out so far have shown that the bones of the victims of mediaeval plague and cholera epidemics, as well as those of the Thirty Years’ War and Swedish sieges were placed in the ossuary.

The accumulated humidity and mould, if left untreated, would cause the gradual decomposition of bones and the collapse of the vault less than two metres under the busy roadway of the Jakubské square. That is why the only way to preserve this unique monument was to renovate the ossuary and open it to the public. During the refurbishment, all remains were collected, cleaned and returned to their last resting place. Together with other archaeological finds, the exhibition shows the way of burying in one of the largest city cemeteries in Brno.

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Details

Founded: 17th century
Category: Cemeteries, mausoleums and burial places in Czech Republic

Rating

4.3/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Abhijeet Kasurde (19 months ago)
Nice to see some part of the history. Spooky place.
C T (2 years ago)
Beautiful place. Well preserved catacombs. Highly recommend visiting here while in brno. It's hard to find as it is under the street near the church
Lonnie Lippert (2 years ago)
It's not the largest or the most original. Lots of restoration. But still something of a curiosity!
Daniel Villanueva Raisman (2 years ago)
An interesting experience that is a most see for anyone that likes history. It is a rather short trip and it costs, but looking at everything that's inside and the context being it's creation is a worthwhile activity. You can also go there for the creep factor, which is very much present.
Michael Gray (2 years ago)
Small but perfectly formed. We visited on a cold winter's evening after dark shortly before closing. 45-60 minutes maximum. The exhibition is carefully laid out, not on a scale to be mistaken with a catacomb under Paris etc. but beautifully presented. In a small family group we were able to soak up the atmosphere in a relaxed, thoughtful way. (Call ahead at busier times, it's small) The music and lighting is surely designed to help with the atmosphere, but kids who've been told the truth about death -you die, you leave physical remains, basta- shouldn't be troubled at all by what they see and experience, rather be fascinated by all the different shapes of the skulls and other bones. Recommended as part of a visit to the various architectural and historical attractions in Brno.
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