This is the crypt of Center Church on New Haven Green in Connecticut, my home state.
It kind of looks like a graveyard, but with bricks instead of grass and four walls and a ceiling instead of fresh air. That’s because it used to be a graveyard, or a small portion of one. When they built the Center Church in the early 19th century, they built the church on top of an existing burial ground, creating a crypt beneath the church where part of the old cemetery could be preserved.
Here lie 137 identified New Havenites under headstones dating from 1687 to 1812, (including some notables, like Benedict Arnold’s first wife), and what are believed to be the remains of about 1,000 unidentified others.
The brick floor is a nice touch.
Image Source: Wikipedia.
In my younger and more vulnerable years, I spent a semester in London (via Florida State University’s London Study Centre).
I was just a walk down Charing Cross Road from the historic St Martin-in-the-Fields Church. I’m not a churchgoer; I went there for their cafe. Which is inside a crypt. It was cool.
This is the crypt beneath the Capuchin Church in Brno, Czech Republic, containing 24 mummified bodies of Capuchin monks neatly laid out in rows, dressed in robes. From Atlas Obscura:
the Capuchin monks […] placed their deceased brothers beneath the church over a period of 300 years. This practice was banned by hygiene laws towards the end of the 18th century.
Mummification was never the intention. In keeping with their vow of poverty, the monks thriftily re-used a single coffin time and time again. After the funerary rites, they would move the deceased into the crypt, and lay him to rest on a pillow of bricks. The dry air currents and composition of the topsoil gradually preserved the bodies where they lay.
The ducal crypt of Vienna’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephensdom), is resting place to the organs and viscera of princes, queens and emperors. From Atlas Obscura’s article on the crypts of the cathedral:
Along with some bodies and hearts, over 60 jars of imperial intestines rest in the ducal crypt, including one containing Hapsburg Queen Maria Teresa’ s sovereign stomach. Not long ago, one of the seals on the jar broke, leaking 200 year-old visceral fluid onto the floor. The stink was apparently so awful that it took a day or two before someone was willing to go down and address the situation.
In 1735, Vienna experienced an outbreak of the bubonic plague. In an effort to keep the Black Death at bay, the numerous cemeteries surrounding the Stephensdom and the charnel house (a building for storing stacked bones) were emptied, and thousands of bones and rotting corpses were thrown down into the pits dug in the floor of the crypt. The downside to this arrangement was that the smell of the catacombs would occasionally waft up into the church and make religious services impossible.
To combat the unfortunate smell, as well as make room for more bodies, a few unlucky prisoners were lowered into the pits where they were forced to scrub the rotting flesh off the plague-ridden and disordered bodies, snapping and breaking the skeletons down to individual bones, and stacking them into neatly ordered rows, skulls on top. It seems that they never finished the job—to this day, one can still find sections of the crypt scattered with piles of disorganized bones and deteriorating coffins.
Image Source: pkingDesign, on Flickr.
I’ve posted before about the 18th-century mummies from Vác, Hungary. But here’s another one, because they’re that awesome. More from Atlas Obscura:
The exhibit in Vác, Hungary is the result of a mummy bonanza discovered during routine restoration of the town’s Dominican church. In 1994 workers discovered a secret crypt that had been bricked up for over 200 years. Inside, 265 hand painted coffins were stacked, one on top of the other, in order of size. Inside, the occupants had naturally mummified, due to perfect conditions of temperature and aridity.
(Image Source: Morbid Anatomy.)
Abraham Lincoln’s corpse had quite the afterlife, including a cross-country funeral tour, several theft attempts, and at least one exhumation. From Wikipedia:
The original tomb was in constant need of repair and deteriorated significantly due to construction on unsuitable soil. In 1900, a complete reconstruction of Lincoln’s tomb was undertaken. In April 25, 1901, upon completion of the reconstruction, Robert Todd Lincoln visited the tomb. He was unhappy with the disposition of his father’s remains and decided that, in order to prevent theft and other disturbances, it was necessary to build a permanent crypt for his father. Lincoln’s coffin would be placed in a steel cage 10 feet (3.0 m) deep and encased in concrete in the floor of the tomb. On September 26, 1901, Lincoln’s body was exhumed so that it could be re-interred in the newly built crypt. However, those present (a total of 23 people) feared that his body might have been stolen in the intervening years, so they decided to open the coffin and check.
It was said that a harsh choking smell arose when the casket was opened. Lincoln was perfectly recognizable, even more than thirty years after his death. His face was a bronze color, from the gunshot wound that shattered the bones in his face and damaged the tissue. The color was unhealed bruises. His hair, beard and mole were all perfectly preserved although his eyebrows were gone. His suit was covered with a yellow mold and his gloves had rotted on his hands. On his chest, they could see some bits of red fabric — remnants of the American flag with which he was buried, which had by then disintegrated. It was theorized that Lincoln had been embalmed so many times on board his funeral train that he had been practically mummified.
Image: “Abraham Lincoln’s suit and hat,” New York Public Library’s “Pageant of America” Photograph Archive.
Here are some monks in robes, just chillin’. With skulls.
Actually, this is the crypt of the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini in Rome. More, from Atlas Obscura:
The ossuary contains a crypt of skulls, a crypt of leg bones, and perhaps the oddest - a “crypt of pelvises.” Mummified monks were dressed in friar’s clothes and hung from the walls and ceiling. […] A particular highlight of the crypt is the skeleton enclosed in an oval of bones holding a scythe and scales - tools made entirely out of, yes, bones.
(Image source: Johnny Söderberg’s Flickr.)
This is one of the best-preserved bodies in the world. Her name is Rosalia Lombardo, her eyes are slightly open, and she’s a Sicilian two-year-old who died of pneumonia in 1920. Her body was embalmed and placed in the Capuchin catacombs of Palermo.
(Image Source: Wikipedia)
Skeletons, mummies, bog bodies, exhumations. The dead, and what happens to them.
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