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Brno, Czech Republic is home to a couple of unique burial spaces. The city’s recently rediscovered Ossuary was the final resting spot of tens of thousands of residents. The Brno Capuchin Monastery is a more exclusive burial spot, serving as a space for deceased friars & their benefactors. Thanks to the design of the Capuchin Crypt in Brno, many of these bodies ended up being mummified. Today, you can see their remains and learn about their history.
The Capuchin Crypt in Brno (official website) is located in the city center just south of the Cabbage Market, toward the train station. It’s part of a larger church & monastery complex that is still in use today. Entry is 120 CZK, with a 30 CZK photography fee. Throughout the crypt, detailed signs tell the history of each room’s contents.
In 1604, the first Capuchins arrived in Brno. The Roman Catholic order is inspired by St. Francis of Assisi. Their original monastery was destroyed while defending against the Swedish in 1625. A second monastery opened in 1656. Between 1656 and 1784 (when sanitary laws against burials in cities began to be enacted), some 153 Capuchin friars and 52 benefactors of the Order of Capuchin Friars Minor were interred in the crypt.
The crypt opened to the public in 1925. The Capuchins did so as a reminder that we all are only here temporarily and someday will die. Inscribed over the church entrance is “tu fui, ego eris”, which means “I was you, you will be me.”
These bodies inside the Brno Capuchin Crypt are unique in that they are mummies. While mummies are typically associated with ancient Egypt, any corpse can become mummified in the right conditions. The Capuchins used a coffin only for a ceremony before placing bodies directly in the crypt. The vault had a series of ventilation holes that gradually dried out the remains, leaving them in the state they are in today.
Before heading to the main crypt, visitors first pass through the chapel. Inside the chapel is the coffin of František (Franz) Baron von Trenck, a prisoner who made a large donation to the Capuchins & wished to be buried with them. At one point, his thumb was stolen and kept at Spilberk, only being reunited with the rest of his body over 150 years later.
The room also holds the reliquary coffin of St. Klemenciana, whose remains are inside a mannequin.
Throughout the building, there are artworks and relics, most of which have detailed descriptions alongside them. It’s a thorough museum.
The next section of the Capuchin Crypt in Brno contains the remains of benefactors, along with their biographies.
Finally, visitors arrive at the room that contains the remains of the Capuchin friars. Not all of the mummified corpses are here. Some had disintegrated and were given a proper cremation & tomb in 1996.
The mummies that remain in the Capuchin Crypt today look at peace. They were placed for eternal rest in a simple manner, wearing robes in the dirt with their arms crossed and their heads on bricks. This matched the vows of poverty they had taken.
As you exit the museum, there is a simple sign on the door: “Thank you for your visit. We wish you not to delay good and important things.” It’s a lovely motivational message that sums up the whole experience.
The Brno Capuchin Crypt is a special place that tells local history while also demonstrating to visitors the brevity of life, thus giving them a better appreciation of their opportunity. For more nearby history, visit the Ossuary at St. James Church and Villa Stiassni.
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Brno, check out these hotels.