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Sonntag, 14. Juni 2020

Hallstatt: The Charnel House

Das Beinhaus (in German language)

The Hallstatt Charnel House has existed since the 12th century. In this Charnel House (lat. "carnarium"  = carnis = flesh) there are 1.200 skulls. 
610 of these are painted and arranged according to family names and are marked with the date of death. As the graveyard was very small, and space was very restricted with no room to extend, the graves were opened again 10-20 years after the burial.

The skull was cleaned and bleached by the sun and the moon for some weeks, until all signs of decay had disappeared and the skull took on a mild ivory colour. As the graves used to be decorated with flowers, the skulls finally came to be painted with floral motives by the undertaker or artists. This was seen as a sign of love. This tradition was started in 1720 AD.

The last skull was placed in the Charnel House in 1995. It lies to the right-hand side, under the cross. It is the skull of a woman who died in 1983 (her gold tooth is still visible). It was her personal wish to be placed in the Charnel House. Today, if someone wants to be placed here they have to make a personal testament to this effect.
After ten years of grave rest, the skull is removed, chemically treated and painted. The two skulls beneath the cross are painted with a snake (the symbol of death, the sin of Adam and Eve). Above you can see the Cross of Salvation. The skulls on the books belonged to priests.
Today it is no longer necessary to remove bones from the graves because the number of cremations has increased sharply. Some of the ashes are buried here but there is also another cemetery, especially for ashes (the crematorium is in Salzburg). 
The wish to be placed in the Charnel House is now rare.   Traditional grave burial is still practised as ever. The bones remain in the earth and the grave must not be opened for at least 15 years.
After the 15 years period of time, a new body can be laid into the grave. The small rectangular stone grave enclosure is removed. The coffin is then laid in (horizontally).


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