*I visited Poland in 2016 and saw the Chapel of Skulls, this story is from this time.
For a completely off the beaten path look at the more macabre and dark past of Poland, then you should visit the Chapel of Skulls located just outside of the popular spa town of Kudowa Zdroj in Lower Silesia, Poland.
The Chapel of Skulls: a symbol 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’.
Out of the group, I was 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 more practical boyfriend enjoyed the presentation and found it interesting.
Something about this place creeped me out and I am not even sure why. It was irrational, as these people were obviously long dead. As someone who doesn’t like horror movies or gore, it follows that it would be this way. But still it was an unsettling experience!