Buildings Where the Walls are Lined with Human Bones

Looking for a setting for your next haunted horror movie? Many of the ornate and elaborate ossuaries around the world serve as grim reminders of mortality, and evoke an eerie sense that their skeletal walls could suddenly spring to life.

While many of these ossuaries are attached to churches, the reason they were constructed is often practical: where there wasn't enough space for a graveyard (or when an existing graveyard was needed for other purposes), the cleaned bones were instead interred inside buildings and catacombs. However, others were created as a reminder of our mortality, and one listed below (The Skull Tower, located in Niš, Serbia), was deliberately meant to evoke horror from the enemies of the Ottoman Empire. More about these and other ossuaries is available at Atlas Obscura.


Santa Maria della Concezione in Rome, where 4,000 Capuchin friars rest; a plaque inside reads: "What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be:"

Sedlec Ossuary in the Czech Republic, which features some of the most creative uses of human bones. Commonly known as the "Bone Church," it features chalices, candelabras, a family crest, and a chandelier all made from skeletal remains:

San Bernardino alle Ossa in Milan, whose inhabitants came largely from the nearby hospital after the adjoining graveyard proved insufficient:

The Chapel of Skulls in Czermna, Poland, created by a priest and a gravedigger in 1776 as a "sanctuary of silence." The pair spent 18 years amassing and arranging some 24,000 skeletons, often with a Jolly Roger motif:

The Chapel of Bones in Evora, Portugal, with the bones displayed publicly as part of the Royal Church of St. Francis. A cheery inscription reads, "We bones that are here, for your bones we wait:"

The Skull Tower of Niš, Serbia, constructed by Turkish general Hurshi Pasha in 1809 during the Serbian Uprising against the Ottoman Empire. The skulls came from Serbian rebels to serve as grim symbol of the general's victory. 952 skulls were used in the tower, but most of the skulls were pried out and returned to the families of the rebels. Fifty-eight currently remain:

The Paris Catacombs in France, which holds somewhere between six and seven million bodies. This less ornate ossuary was built in the late 18th Century when the city's cemeteries became overcrowded:

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[Atlas Obscura]


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