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.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.