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

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4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Léo Etlesbas (8 months ago)
Interesting but a bit short for the price requested...
Claudiu (14 months ago)
Tough to review this mostly because we are talking about some fifty thousand people put on display. The price is way too high for the learning experience, however, they mostly base the charge on the morbidity of the whole thing
Rosemary Svenson (15 months ago)
This was my first Ossuary, and I hope it won't be my last! I have always wanted to go to an Ossuary and this did NOT disappoint. I was absolutely taken aback by the care amd presentation that went into creating this space. It's reverent and artistic, perfectly respecting every bone in the facility. Not only was it showcasing many bones, but it is coupled by entrancing music and edgy art pieces. The combination of all this left me spell bound; I could have stayed for hours! I also must give a mention to Ana, a lady who worked there. I had some questions about the art and history of the Ossuary and she went above and beyond by providing me with all the information I wanted and then some. She was smart, stylish and very friendly! She was even able to help me find a good place to eat and other points of interest. Thank you for making me feel at home!
Adams (15 months ago)
A visit to the St. James Ossuary reminds one how far humanity has come and the echoes of the past. The sheer fact that this was never discovered until 2001 is frightening. Skulls and bones of the dead piled all the way from the floor to the ceiling shows how humans can be creative even in the most terrifying way. A visit to the Ossuary brings to light how the Moravian empire and Europe was almost brought to it's knees by plagues and diseases.
Andrew Clement (2 years ago)
It was a really interesting place to visit and learn about. I think some might find it creepy. I thought it was a good thing to learn about the history of the area.
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