Tag Archives: burial sites

20 Crazy Facts About The World’s Most Incredible Burial Sites

So hip, they’re actually underground.

Paul Koudounaris previously published a book in which he shared extraordinary photos of the world’s most lavishly decorated skeletons.

Paul Koudounaris


The following excerpts are from his newest book, titled Memento Mori: The Dead Among Us, which takes readers to the most macabre sites in the world.

1. Lampa, Peru

Paul Koudounaris

One of the most stunning displays of death is in the village of Lampa, Peru. A local nobleman who traced his lineage to the Spanish settlers who founded the town as a mining village petitioned the local church for permission to exhume their bones and use them to decorate his own tomb. The result: A deep silo with walls covered in skeletons maybe seem medieval in sentiment, but in fact was not constructed until the second half of the 20th century.

2. Waldsassen, Germany

Paul Koudounaris

The ultimate treatment for human remains is bejeweling the entire skeleton. This was popular during the 17th and 18th centuries in parts of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, and remains of people thought to be holy would be treated in this way. This particular skeleton, in Waldsassen, Germany, was discovered in the Roman catacombs and believed to be that of a martyr — he was sent to Germany, covered in jewels, and set into an altar to inspire faith.

3. Sedlec Ossuary, Czech Republic

Paul Koudounaris

The most famous of the charnel houses is at Sedlec, near Kutna Hora, in the Czech Republic. Often called “The Bone Church,” it was a funerary chapel that was once part of a monastic property, and decorated entirely with bones from the local cemetery. Among its highlights are an 8-foot-wide chandelier, said to be composed with one of every bone in the human body.

4. Bangkok, Thailand

Paul Koudounaris

Some cultures decorate the bones themselves. This unusual display of golden skulls with golden cushions in their eye sockets is found at a charitable foundation in Bangkok, Thailand. The caters to the needs of poor people who cannot afford the costs of a funeral, and these skulls are the first dozen clients — preserved, gilded, and given a place of honor.

5. Rome, Italy

Paul Koudounaris

Mummies were also sometimes included in Italian charnel houses (church bone rooms). Up until the 19th century, most burials took place in churchyards, and when these cemetery areas were full, old burials would be removed to make space, and the bones stored. This display is found under the Capuchin monastery of Santa Maria della Concezione in Rome, a multiroom crypt that combined architectural elements replicated in human bone with the mummified bodies of monks who had died in the monastery.

6. Opdas Burial Cave, The Philippines

Paul Koudounaris

Many other cultures have similar traditions for displaying the dead, especially in Asia, where burial caves were used to store large quantities of human bones. The Opdas Cave on central Luzon is the largest such cave in the Philippines, housing the remains of thousands of people. It was discovered when a local man believed he heard mysterious voices; he began to dig, and it turned out this burial cave was under his property.

7. Lombok Village, Indonesia

Paul Koudounaris

The most picturesque of all the Asian burial caves is found outside the village of Lombok, again on the island of Sulawesi. The center part of the cave features skulls set upon moss-covered rocks, and the surrounding area is covered in broken coffins filled with the bones of several generations of village residents.

8. Brno, Czech Republic

Paul Koudounaris

Mummies are also found under the Capuchin monastery in Brno, Czech Republic. These mummies were all brothers from the monastery and some date as far back as the 17th century. The monastery owned only one coffin, and it had a false bottom — the deceased would be carried away to a drying room and then released from the coffin, which would then be saved for the next funeral.

9. Palermo, Sicily

Paul Koudounaris

The largest collection of these mummies is in the crypt of the Capuchin monastery in Palermo, where over a thousand are preserved, making it the largest collection of mummified remains in the world. Known now as the Palermo Catacombs, the mazelike crypt contained different sections for different classes of people, including mummified infants and virgins. At one time there were four functioning altars for religious services set among the mummies.

10. Kolin, Czech Republic

Paul Koudounaris

There are many other highly elaborate church bone houses that are not famous, however. This one, at Kolín also in the Czech Republic, was constructed in the 18th century inside of a large, pyramid-shaped structure. It features a life-size crucifix against one of its impressive walls of bones.

11. Mount Abuna Yosef, Ethiopia

Paul Koudounaris

A mountain cave behind the church of Yemrehanna Kristos in Ethiopia is one of the world’s largest bone fields. For centuries, people came here to die, under the belief that the relics of a legendary king were present, and to die near them was to die in a blessed state. The back section of the cave is a sea of human body parts, piled high on top of one another.

12. Burgio, Sicily

Paul Koudounaris

Sitting upright in a coffin, this deteriorated mummy is one of several dozen found in the Capuchin monastery in Burgio, Sicily. It was common in Sicily through the 19th century to mummify your relatives and put them on display in the crypts of local churches. Such displays were signs of love and respect, and the living family members would visit the dead each year on All Souls’ Day.

13. Gangi, Sicily

Paul Koudounaris

Another large collection of Sicilian mummies is found in Gangi. Underneath the town’s oldest and largest church, former ecclesiastic staff were dehydrated and placed in niches, still wearing their vestments. Experiments carried out to treat their faces with wax in order to better preserve their likenesses only made the effect of the display more macabre when the wax slowly deteriorated.

14. Oria, Italy

Paul Koudounaris

These collections of mummies were not found solely in Sicily. In a crypt under the cathedral in Oria in Southern Italy, a entire mummified Confraternity of Death is preserved. During their lives, the members of this brotherhood performed charitable functions, in particular funerals for impoverished people. When the brothers themselves died, they were preserved and put on display.

15. Bua, Indonesia

Paul Koudounaris

A large burial cave complex is found on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia, outside of the village of Bua, and contains several different chambers containing human bones. Funerals in this part of the island are large and extravagant affairs, and afterward the body is placed in a coffin and taken to a local cave. Over time, the wood rots away and the bones are exposed, to later be picked up and arranged by visitors.

16. Kete Kesu, Indonesia

Paul Koudounaris

Also on Sulawesi, large piles of human bones are found near the village of Kete Kesu. Here, they are not in a cave, but rather stacked along a mountain path leading to a cave mouth. Coffins are placed on wooden slats, and when they eventually deteriorate, the bones fall to the ground in heaps.

17. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Paul Koudounaris

The western part of South America is pockmarked with ancient necropoli, many featuring deteriorated mummies that are still in situ. This one is outside of the world’s largest salt flat at Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia. Some of these South American mummies are up to 1,500 years old.

18. La Paz, Bolivia

Paul Koudounaris

The tradition of preserving human remains still exists in some parts of South America, particularly in Bolivia where skulls known as ñatitas are kept in some homes, particularly in La Paz. The souls attached to these skulls act as friends, helpers, servants, and guardians. They are kept in shrines, and various materials may be used to give them faux eyes, noses, and mouths.

19. La Paz, Bolivia

Paul Koudounaris

These skulls are not always confined to the home, however. Once a year, on Nov. 8, they’re taken by their owners to the chapel of La Paz’s Cemetery General. They attend a mass, and a giant celebration, the Fiesta de las Ñatitas, is held in their honor.

20. Hallstatt, Austria

Paul Koudounaris

Painted skulls like these were once common in small church parishes of in the German-speaking Alps, although now the only sizeable display is found in Hallstatt, Austria, where nearly 600 are preserved. The name of the deceased and date of death would be recorded on the forehead, often surrounded by flowers, crosses, and other decorative designs. The artists were usually the local gravediggers.

Some Of The Most Impressive Structures In The World Have Dark Purposes.

Certain architectural wonders of the world hold some of the most insane secrets. You can look at these structures and their beauty and not know what is really hiding there. When you go inside, what do you expect to find? Palatial furnishings? A crazy party? How about this: you walk into some of these beautiful achievements in human architecture only to find that it is just an impressive burial ground?

That’s right, these beautiful structures are homes to the dead.

1.) The Taj Mahal

Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan built the Taj in Agra, India in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal (between 1632 and 1653 AD). The emperor and his wife are both buried here. Talk about a wedding present!

2.) The Great Pyramid Of Giza

The Great Pyramid of Giza is believed to be a tomb for the Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu. All that for just one guy? Impressive.

3.) Humayun’s Tomb

Delhi, India is the home to the burial place of the second Mughal Emperor Humayun and other Mughal nobility. Humayun’s wife Hamida Banu Begum commissioned the tomb in 1562 CE.

4.) Anıtkabir

This Turkish monument stands as the burial place of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey.

5.) Masjad-i-Nabvi

The tomb of the Prophet Muhammad sits beneath the green dome of the Masjid-i-Nabvi, or “Mosque of the Prophet” in Medina, the second-holiest city in Islam. Some additions were appended since its construction, but it remains more or less the same as when it was first built.

6.) Mausoleum of Genghis Khan

In Ordus, China, you’ll find this monument commemorating Ghengis Khan. His actual burial site is unknown, but this mausoleum is a cenotaph to Genghis Khan.

7.) Castel Sant’Angelo

Rome, Italy is home to the Castel Sant’Angelo. The tomb of the Roman emperor Hadrian was built between 135 AD and 139 AD. It was later used as a fortress, and now functions as a museum.

8.) Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo

Capuchin monks mummified the bodies of the dead, dressed them up in everyday clothing and then put them on the monastery walls for display in this Palermo, Italy monestary. Apparently, getting entombed was quite a status symbol in the Capuchin monastery. Prominent citizens of the town would ask to be preserved in certain clothing and even have the clothes changed on a regular basis according to contemporary fashion!

9.) Nintoku Mausoleum

Sakai, Japan is home to one of the largest mausoleums in the world, the burial site of the 6th emperor of Japan, Nintoku.

10.) Westminster Abbey

This English cathedral is home to the remains of many literary geniuses. Geoffrey Chaucer, William Blake, Lord Byron, Charles Dickens, John Keats, Rudyard Kipling, William Wordsworth, Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters, are either buried or commemorated here.

11.) Tomb Of Cyrus The Great

While not as impressive as some of the other structures listed here, the burial grounds of the Persian Empire founder lay in Cyrus’ historic capital Pasargadae.

12.) The Catacombs Of Paris

Recently featured in the film, As Above, So Below, the catacombs in Paris have an interesting history. Paris suffered from diseases caused by improper burials and mass graves in church cemeteries. Local authorities decided that they would remove thousands of bones and place them stacked in the abandoned underground quarries.

13.) Les Invalides

Paris, France is the home to this impressive mausoleum. Originally a 17th century hospital and retirement home for war veterans, Les Invalides now houses a military museum and the tomb of Napolean Bonaparte, as well as other French military figures.

14.) Newgrange

It is believe that this Irish burial ground was built somewhere between 3100-2900 BCE and is home to thousands of prehistoric humans.

15.) Lincoln’s Tomb

In Springfield, Illinois, you can find the tomb of the 16th President of the United States. Abraham Lincoln is buried with his wife and children in this monument.

16.) Mazar-e-Quaid

The tomb of the founder of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was completed in the 1960s and lies in the heart of Karachi.

17.) Lenin’s Tomb

This impressive structure is home to the embalmed corpse of Vladimir Lenin. Lenin’s Tomb was completed in 1930, located in the Red Square of Moscow.

18.) Forest Lawn Great Mausoleum

How can we deny that we treat our entertainers like royalty? Founded in 1906, the Forest Lawn Mausoleum is the burial place of choice for many American entertainment greats. Clark Gable, Walt Disney, Lucille Ball, Nat King Cole, Carole Lombard and Humphrey Bogart are all buried here.

19.) Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum

This insane Chinese mausoleum dates back t0 210 BCE, was discovered in the underground necropolis of the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. To date, 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, all life-size, were uncovered.

20.) Shah-i-Zinda

According to legend, Shah-i-Zina is the burial place of Kusam ibn Abbas, a cousin of the Prophet Muhammad and patron saint of Samarkand, where this tomb is located.

21.) The Pantheon

This famous Roman piece of architecture was originally a temple to the gods, but used as a tomb and church since the Renaissance. Buried here are two Italian kings, the painters Raphael and Annibale Carracci, and the composer Arcangelo Corelli.

22.) St. Peter’s Basilica

The Vatican City’s crowning achievement to Catholicism is the burial place of Saint Peter, as well as 91 popes. Construction of the present building ended in 1626.

23.) Tana Toraja

The Toraja people in Sulawesi, Indonesia have an interesting burial arrangement. They bury their dead in a stone cave carved out of a rocky cliff. A wood-carved effigy called a tau tau, carved with the likeness of the dead person, is then placed in the balcony of the tomb to represent the dead and watch over their remains.

24.) The Valley Of Kings

It took nearly 500 years to contstruct the burial site of Egyptian Pharaohs and powerful nobles, from the 16th to 11th century BCE. It includes the “cursed” tomb of King Tutankhamun.

Getting buried in the ground doesn’t seem quite right anymore, eh? You’re starting to want a more lavish burial plot. Well, you better start saving some money is you want to a king’s burial, because it costs a king’s ransom.