Skull Chapel of Czermna

Kudowa-Zdrój, Poland

The Skull Chapel (Kaplica Czaszek) or St. Bartholomew's Church, is an ossuary chapel. Built in last quarter of the 18th century on the border of the then Prussian County of Glatz, the temple serves as a mass grave with thousands of skulls and skeletal remains 'adorning' its interior walls as well as floor, ceiling and foundations. The Skull Chapel is the only such monument in Poland, and one of six in Europe.

The chapel was built in 1776 by Czech local parish priest Václav Tomášek. It is the mass grave of people who died during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), three Silesian Wars (1740–1763), as well as of people who died because of cholera epidemics, plague, syphilis and hunger.

Together with sacristan J. Schmidt and grave digger J. Langer, father Tomášek who was inspired by the Capuchin cemetery while on a pilgrimage to Rome, collected the casualties’ bones, cleaned and put them in the chapel within 18 years (from 1776 to 1794). Walls of this small, baroque church are filled with three thousand skulls, and there are also bones of another 21 thousand people interred in the basement. The skulls of people who built the chapel, including father Tomaszek, were placed in the center of the building and on the altar in 1804. Inside are a crucifix and two carvings of angels, one with a Latin inscription that reads 'Arise from the Dead' are among the bones.

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Founded: 1776
Category: Religious sites in Poland

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