The Catacombs of Paris hold the bones of an estimated 6,000,000 dead. In 2001, the second largest ossuary found in Europe occurred during remodeling of St. James Square/Jakubske namasti in Brno, Czech Republic, where the bones of an estimated 50,000 persons were discovered in chambers beneath the church.
The Brno ossuary was established in the mid-18th century. Plague and cholera epidemics quickly filled the chambers established to hold the bones of the dead. When full, the ossuary was sealed with a stone slab. Reforms in 1784 led to the end of the church cemetery for hygienic purposes. Over the centuries the ossuary had been forgotten.
One of the city’s primary tram lines runs in front of St. James Square/Jakubske namasti. Due to the structural inadequacy of solid ground between street level modern transportation and the underground chambers of the ossuary, after consultation with academics, church leaders, archaeologists, engineers and other stakeholders, the decision was made to remove the bones, clean and study them, then replace the bones in reconstructed and architecturally sound chambers beneath the church and square.
Brno Ossuary under St. James Church is now a museum with three chambers tourists can visit. There are three short corridors into low-lighted chambers. Art pieces and music add additional artistic elements to the displays of skeletal remains.
The ossuary tour is self-guided. Informational displays in Czech and English provide three panels of history and context prior to entering the chambers.
In Paris, the museum tour of the Catacombs covers 1.5km and takes 45 minutes. In Brno, the three chambers cover less than 100 meters and visitors can linger as long as they like. We stayed about 30 minutes to read the lobby displays and view the chambers.
Brno St. James Church depicted in 1825 painting.
Ticket Price 140 CZK ($6.32 USD) with 50% discount for children 6-15, students and seniors.
San Francisco SFO – Copenhagen, Denmark – Stockholm, Sweden – Amsterdam, Netherlands – Prague, Czechia – Bratislava, Slovakia – London, England – San Francisco SFO (22 days-6 flights-20 hotel nights-6 bus trips)
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