This network of conjoined cellars was riddled with traps and supposedly allowed the townspeople to pretend their homes were deserted.
Beneath the historic homes of Znojmo, Czechia is a system of defensive catacombs built by the townspeople to protect themselves from invaders, using almost cartoonish strategies.
Calling the maze beneath Znojmo “catacombs” is a bit of a misnomer, as there are no bodies buried in the underground network, but with their crude, twisting layout, the description seems apt. The tunnels beneath the town were created in between the 14th and 15th centuries, as the citizens linked together their cellar spaces into one great warren. The passages received air from shafts leading to chimneys and fireplaces in the homes and businesses above. In addition, there were wells for water, as well as sewage and drainage systems to keep the space fresh. All of this was in service of creating a vast hiding place for the townspeople. Tunnels leading out of the city were also created in case escape was the order of the day.
Should enemy invaders find their way into the almost 100,000 feet of tunneling, simple traps such as slippery slides, trapdoors, and narrow choke points, were also installed.
Supposedly an invading force once entered Znojmo to find nothing but an eerily empty ghost town with no people, but smoke still bellowing from chimneys. Details on this story seem apocryphal, but the image of an army terrified of a dead town is still evocative.
Today, many portions of the tunnels have flooded, but the intact sections are open for visitors during the summer and fall. As though a system of subterranean was not creepy enough on its own, little dioramas of ghouls and goblins have also been installed.
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