Across Europe in many predominantly Catholic or Orthodox countries are sites known as ossuaries, often referred to as “bone churches”. Creepy by today’s standards, these churches decorated from floor to ceiling with human skeletal remains were often used in places where major plagues had hit or where burial space had become scare. Though the original intention in many areas was for bones to be buried when space became available, many of these remains are still up and hanging in these bone churches as a testament to this peculiar religious tradition.
Nothing in that headline is misleading. In an interview with The Hairpin, author, photographer and ossuary expert Paul Koudounaris sat down to talk about some of the weirder traditions he’s encountered in regards to ossuaries, mummies and treatment of the dead.