Day 8: Ossuaries

I think I had a similar reaction to most of the ossuaries we saw throughout the trip, however my emotions were stronger in some over others.
The Mělník ossuary completely took my breath away before I could even see the whole thing. I had seen photos of it before when doing research for Dr. Blake’s class last semester, however I never noticed the details, nor did I recognize the intimacy the space provided, especially since our group was the only one down there. Seeing the Czech word for “plague” spelled in skulls sent shivers down my spine, yet it was also intriguing. There was a heaviness in the room as we all peered at the thousands of remains piled around us.
The Sedlec ossuary in Kutná Hora was not as emotional, but much more. I think I didn’t get as emotional since the remains were more artfully displayed, and there were plenty of other tourists around us. It was infatuating to look at the many designs. What took away from the experience was the number of tourists as well as the fact that some of the remains weren’t there.
The Capuchin Monastery in Brno was absolutely incredible. I think what made this so much more emotional than the other ossuaries was the fact that the monks has not been touched for the hundreds of years they have been there, whereas the other remains we had seen have been cleaned or rearranged throughout the years. I was fascinated by the fact that their mummification was completely unintentional. I think I became the most emotional here because the monks had devoted their lives to their religion, and had taken a vow of poverty, thus removing their right to a traditional burial, which meant they were left the way they are today. I think being able to have a lot more time here and really be able to read about who and what I was seeing really gave me a better experience emotionally.
The ossuary under the Church of St. James in Brno was also very emotional. This ossuary was smaller, so it brought back the heaviness I felt at the Mělník ossuary. There was music playing overhead while we were in the ossuary, which was very somber and also helped evoke my emotions rather than compartmentalize them. At first, I disagreed with the idea of it, but after discussing it with Professor Mushtare and Dr. Blake and some peers, I felt it was a good idea. I liked this ossuary probably second best as it had a very artistic appeal to it, and a lot of good representations. I liked the fact that it was very intimate and dark. The most amazing part of this ossuary to me is that it went unknown of for over 200 years until it was rediscovered. I also liked that they left some of the ossuary as it originally was (unorganized and piled about 6 or 7 feet high, of just remains), while the rest was stacked and organized neatly. One part has a wall of skulls facing the viewer, and as Tyler said, “you can really feel like death is staring you in the face.” I feel like this wall is intentional to kind of evoke the common theme of memento mori that most ossuaries intend to have.