For a completely off the beaten path look at the more macabre and dark past of Poland, then you simply must visit the Chapel of Skulls located just outside of the popular spa town of Kudowa Zdroj in Lower Silesia, Poland.
You only need scrape the surface of history to find that Poland has had an unfortunate run of luck when it comes to plagues, wars and invasions from neighbouring countries in the past millennia.
The Chapel of Skulls has come to be a symbol of the cycles of life, death and war.
The chapel was built in 1776 by the Czech local parish priest Wacław Tomaszek. It was inspired by Tomaszek’s pilgrimage to Rome where he saw a similar graveyard. Over a period of about 18 years, himself along with J. Schmidt and grave digger J. Langer salvaged and cleaned the bones of people who died during the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648), three Silesian Wars (1740–1763), as well as of people who died because of cholera epidemics, plague, syphilis and hunger.
Around three thousand skulls line every surface of the Baroque chapel along with another 21,000 skulls in the basement. If you visit the chapel of skulls then you can listen to a nun give a presentation about it. Popular for school trips with children and teens in Poland, the chapel allows about 30 people into the tiny space at once for the 20 minute presentation. Although the audio history of the chapel is only available in Polish, Czech and German and not in English. At the doors of the baroque chapel, a Latin inscription reads ‘Arise from the dead’.
On entering the chapel, a nun takes a small group in there and shuts the doors for about 20 minutes for the presentation. The first person into the chapel, I found it far too confronting to see all of these dead things around me. I got creeped out immediately and left very quickly. My less sensitive and more practical boyfriend enjoyed the presentation and found it interesting.