The Skeletons of Waldsassen Basilica – Waldsassen, Germany - Atlas Obscura

The Skeletons of Waldsassen Basilica

Waldsassen, Germany

Skeletons dressed in extravagant 18th century royal costumes cavort in the aisles of this German basilica. 


In the Waldsassen Basilica in Waldsassen, Germany, the halls of the church are lined with an unusual sort of decoration.

Known as the “Holy Bodies,” they are the skeletons of Christian martyrs who were exhumed from the catacombs of Rome between 1688 and 1765. What makes these even more unusual than standard skeletal relics is that these skeletons are dressed in elaborate 18th-century garb, covered in jewels, and generally look like royalty.

Each year, the church celebrates a Holy-Bodies-Fest celebrating these martyrs, with the idea that we too are “Holy Bodies.” Beyond this, little about the extravagantly dressed bodies is known. However, one of note is St. Valentinus, who was dressed by brother Adalbart Eder in a biretta and highly decorated deacon’s cassock.

The church also has a famous statue of Christ, but his arms were broken off by a soldier. The armless Christ is seen as a symbol of forgiveness and reconciliation, and people make pilgrimages to the church to pray to the “savior without arms.”

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