The chapel of skulls in Poland
Travel Poland

The Chapel of Skulls in Kudowa-Zdroj, Poland

There are unique places in Kłodzko land that you just have to see. The Skull Chapel in Czermna (Kudowa-Zdrój) makes a huge impression, a bit scary but at the same time fascinating.

This is one big cemetery enclosed in four walls. The entire interior of the chapel was lined with human remains – real skulls and bones. The Skull Chapel in Kudowa-Zdrój is the only monument of its kind in Poland.

Curious to find out more about one of the most unusual places in Poland? 

Read more…

History

The principal author of the creation of the chapel was the local priest Václav Tomášek. One day, in 1776, he noticed human remains protruding from the ground on a slope near the church. Together with the beadle and the gravedigger, they began to excavate bones located under the shallow underground. 

The longer they dug, the more and more they discovered. In total, the corpses of over 20,000 people were found, probably the victims of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48), Prussian-Austrian Silesian Wars (1740-42 and 1744-45 and 1756-63) as well as epidemics that affected the area in the 17th and 18th centuries.

It took him eight years to collect bones, disinfect and impregnate, and lay debris, although historians mention that the priest devoted the last thirty years of his life to this unique place. 

Where did the idea for the creation of the chapel come from? Perhaps the idea was born during a visit a catacomb in Rome. He claimed that he was horrified by the sight of dark underground corridors, open human graves full of skeletons and skulls.

Chapel Architecture

The interior of the chapel, walls, and ceiling, covers about three thousand tightly arranged skulls and bones. Opposite the entrance, there is a baroque altar with a crucifix. 

Two wooden sculptures of angels stand in the corner of the side walls. One has a trumpet and Latin call “Rise from the dead,” the other holds a scales and has the inscription “Go to court.”

The interior of the church does not let you forget about the inevitability of human death. The part of the skulls and tibia that served as wall and vault decor is arranged in macabre patterns and decorations. 

There are many bones with various diseases and genetic deformities. A significant part of the collection that is unavailable on a daily basis is located under the chapel floor. Next to the chapel, there is a monument with a trilingual inscription: “To the victims of wars to commemorate, and to the living as a warning 1914”.

The chapel was built in the Baroque style and has become a unique work of religious culture and the only such monument in Poland. Is one of the few necropolises of this type in the world. In Europe, apart from Kutna Hora in the Czech Republic, we can also find a similar one in Evora, Portugal (Capela dos Ossos). 

Like the places mentioned above, the Polish chapel is part of thanatotourism, i.e., traveling to sites related to death, and is a must-see for tourists visiting the Table Mountains.

Practical Information

The chapel is visited by tourists from the farthest corners of the globe; however, all need to follow the same basic principles. Let us remember that this place is where the people are buried, and they deserve respect.

Opening Hours and Admission

The chapel is open every day (except Mondays).

In May and June:

9.00 – 17.30

From July to September:

9.30 – 17.00

In October:

10.00 – 17.00

From November to April:

10.00 – 16.00

Regular ticket 8 PLN, reduced-fare 4 PLN.

Location and getting there

The Skull Chapel is located at 8 Stanisław Moniuszko street in Czermna, Kudowa Zdroj.

The journey from Wrocław to Kudowa-Zdrój will take you about two hours. It’s best to go there by car as the route is not complicated, you just have to follow the state road No. 8. 

In Kudowa itself, we can easily find the Skull Chapel, and the way to the monument is well marked.

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4 Comments

  • Steve

    The Chapel of Skulls has always been a place of interest to me. I’m not sure whether to marvel at its architecture or be off-put by its macabre look! I can certainly appreciate the design, but can’t help but feeling it is unfortunate that so many human remains were available because of the horror that is war. I do feel like it gets its message across and I can’t imagine anyone visiting there and not thinking twice about the price of starting wars. Thanks for the post!

  • Shanta Rahman

    Many thanks to you for sharing such a wonderful article with us and Chapel of Skulls is always my favorite place. The chapel was built in the Baroque style and became a unique composition of religious culture and the only monument in Poland.And I want to appreciate this design .It seems unfortunate to me that so many people are left here because of the horrors of war.From your article, I found out that there were more than 20,000 dead, probably suffering from epidemics during the Thirty Years War, the Prussian-Austrian Silesian War.And it’s very traumatic  .I think it is definitely a must see for tourists.

    Interested to read your article, and I will be here soon and will definitely share with you my new experience.

  • Nimrodngy

    Wow. This is indeed a work of art. I saw a documentary about The Chapel of Skulls in Kudowa-Zdroj, Poland. I want to tell you that I was amazed and I really want to visit this wonderful place. Considering that this year I will come to Krakow I think it is the right time to visit this chapel. Looking behind the history of these skulls I realize that this were very difficult times and God wanted to remind us of these tragic events and of the people who fought for freedom. Thank’s a lot for this article! 

  • Joseph Stasaitis

    This Chapel of Skulls is simply amazing. The history of this is quite interesting and intriguing.

    Finding the remains of 20,000 people is astonishing. Just another example of the tragedy of war. I was not aware if the term thanatotourism before.

    I can understand why this place gets so many visitors with the history and beautiful architecture. This is a place which I will put in my travel plans as my family is from Lithuania, not very far away from there. Thanks for this information. All the Best to You.

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