This is the first of many posts about the strange, weird, historical, haunted, and odd places I have found in my travels. You can find more about this here.
I honestly didn’t know ossuaries were a thing.
Google defines an ossuary is a “container or room where bones of dead people are placed.”
So imagine my surprise walking into a side chapel at the San Bernardino all Ossa in Milan, Italy to find the entire place decorated in human skeletal remains. Might’ve pooped my pants just a little bit. It’s hardly what you expect viewing churches in Italy. Apparently, this has been a thing for hundreds of years. It’s only now occurring to me that the Catacombs in Paris are the largest example of an ossuary – and I’ll be sure to never go exploring those.
The weirdest thing to me is not just that we’ve got bones lying around. If it was a pile of human bones in the corner, it wouldn’t be all that interesting. The craziest part is the decor of the room relies almost exclusively on these ornaments. Some one actually went through all of the bones available to pick out the best ones and then proceeded to put them on or into neat displays all over the room. Whose job was that? How old were the bones? What if you went to exhume a body and knew the person?
“Damn Fred had some nice tibias.”
“I knew Nancy had osteoporosis.”
So the story’s origins remains consistent with many other ossuaries across the world. The initial church and chapel were built sometime in the 13th century. The ossuary was added to care for the remains from a nearby hospital. In later centuries, they were running out of room to bury dead people in local cemeteries, so they decided to dig up old graves to decorate the chapel. This way they could then bury the more recently deceased (before probably digging them in the coming years) Honestly wouldn’t your first thought be to cremate them? No, no, this skull really brings together the room.
While I may not ever truly understand ossuaries other than that they freak me out, it’s certainly a site to see. San Bernardino all Ossa is open to the public most days and is free to enter.