Skulls and bones instead of gold and marble – a chapel in Poland is characterized by a high creep factor.

There are no putti here, and there is almost no trace of gilded ornaments or wooden icons: in the Kaplica Czaszek, bleached skulls stare at visitors from their empty eye sockets, bones “decorate” the walls of the church in the spa town of Kudowa. Why does the “Chapel of the Skulls” look the way it does? It was the work of a pastor.

The wars provided the material

According to the spa website, the baroque church dates back to 1776. Wacław Tomaszek was responsible for the parish at the time. At the behest of the cleric, the bones of those who died in the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) and Seven Years’ War (1756-1763) were dug up from the area, and the walls and ceiling were lined with 3,000 skulls and bones. The mortal remains of the fallen and sick from Kudowa, Duszniki and Polanica Zdrój can still be found in St. Bartholomew.

As can be seen from the pictures, the bones were not piled up randomly in the church. They have been carefully cleaned and arranged into artistic ornaments. In the front part there is an altar on which the skull of the pastor who died in 1804 is laid out. But it only gets really scary in the cellar vault or in the crypt. The remains of another 21,000 people are piled up there.

The dark side of Paris

The chapel is vaguely reminiscent of the catacombs of Paris. A gruesome remnant of the past slumbers there in secret. “Stop! This is where the realm of the dead begins!” reads at the entrance to the catacombs. About 20 meters below the City of Love lie the mortal remains of about six million people. Once a quarry, the area became a huge cemetery from the 18th century. The city’s other burial sites were simply running out of space.

This also happened in the Kaplica Czaszek. For several decades, Wacław Tomaszek “collected” the bones of the dead and had them installed in the Polish chapel; what “was left” went into the crypt. Today the religious cabinet of horrors is a real magnet for visitors.