Because the small church Kaplica Czaszek is “decorated” over and over with the bones of thousands of deceased. It is therefore better known under the name “Chapel of the Skulls”.
Most people who visit the Polish spa town of Kudowa-Zdrój would probably just pass by the small Church of St. Bartholomew. But behind its wooden door lies one of the spookiest tourist attractions in Poland. Because the interior of the church is almost completely “decorated” with human bones. They stare at anyone who enters it from hollow eye sockets. That is why the place has its macabre nickname: Kaplica Czaszek – the chapel of the skulls.
According to the official site of the spa, this special mausoleum was consecrated in 1776 by the local priest Wacław Tomaszek. In the years that followed, he had the mortal remains of the dead collected from the surrounding towns of Kudowa, Duszniki and Polanica Zdrój and brought to the Kaplica Czaszek. In the early past, several armed conflicts took place in the region around Kudowa-Zdrój. The Thirty Years’ War (1618-48) and the Seven Years’ War (1756-63) in particular had devastated the region and left countless lives behind.
The dogs showed the way to the graves
In addition, according to “Atlas Obscura”, there were regular cholera epidemics, which thinned out the population, and Pastor Tomaszek repeatedly provided “material” for Kaplica Czaszek. At that time, the dead were usually simply buried carelessly in mass graves. And these were often found in a particularly macabre way: all you had to do was follow the dogs in the area. Because they sometimes dug up the bones again.
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And so, over time, an almost unbelievable number of human remains came together in the Kaplica Czaszek. According to the site, its walls and ceiling are “decorated” with the skulls and bones of over 3,000 dead. They are arranged in artistic ornaments in the chapel, with a small altar in the middle. But the true cabinet of horrors is in the crypt of the small church.
Skulls stacked two meters high
Because here lie, stacked two meters high, the bones of another 21,000 people. And among the skulls are true oddities: according to “Atlas Obscura”, among other things, the head of a local mayor has been preserved, and that of Pastor Tomaszek and his assistant also rest here. One of the skulls is completely deformed by syphilis, and even the head of an alleged giant is found.
Pastor Tomaszek needed several decades to transform Kaplica Czaszek into the total work of art that tourists know today. The history of the church can be heard in Polish, German or Czech during a visit. Only photography is not allowed in the Chapel of the Skulls. But you will probably never forget a visit without having taken any pictures.