The Altar of the Basilica of St. Michael – Mondsee, Austria - Atlas Obscura

The Altar of the Basilica of St. Michael

Mondsee, Austria

This skeleton-filled altar piece served as a backdrop to one of the most iconic scenes in "The Sound of Music." 


If you’ve watched The Sound of Music, you probably remember the wedding scene in a large late-gothic church, but you may not have noticed the brief appearance of the martyrs, relics, and catacomb saints in the large altar behind the priest.

In fact, the most famous “resident” of this relic-filled altarpiece, the skeleton of Abbot Konrad II, was actually hidden from view by a statue during the filming of the wedding scene. Never fear though, since you can visit the famous Mondsee Abbey Church in person and see these decorated skeletons and other relics in person. The insanely ornate seven-part altar is designed as a giant reliquary, holding entire skeletons for all to see. Konrad was killed in 1145 defending the monastery from noblemen who wished to repossess the land. His jewel-encrusted skeleton now sits with a golden halo a top the altar. 

Konrad is not alone in the gilded altar either. Entombed beneath him are the remains of four so-called “catacomb saints,” lying in relaxed poses upon red satin pillows in their little triangular chambers. In addition to the massive, main altar there also a series of smaller altars lining the chapel walls. While these do not hold such grim relics, but they are decorated with lovely paintings.   

The abbey is one of the oldest in Austria, and certainly one of the most picturesque. Whether you are into musicals, lovely churches, or jewled skeletons this alter has you covered.

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