The Skeletons of Waldsassen Basillica

Skeletons dressed in extravagant 1700s royal costumes cavort in the aisles of this German Basilica

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In the Waldsassen Basillica in Waldsassen, Germany, the halls of the church are lined with an unusual sort of decoration.

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Known as the “Holy Bodies,” they are the skeletons of Christian martyrs who were exhumed from the catacombs of Rome between 1688 and 1765. What makes these even more unusual than standard skeletal relics is that these skeletons are dressed in elaborate 1700s garb, covered in jewels, and generally look like royalty. Each year, the church celebrates a Holy-Bodies-Fest celebrating these martyrs, with the idea that we too are “Holy Bodies.” Beyond this, little about the extravagantly dressed bodies is known.

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The church also has a famous statue of Christ, but its arms were broken off by a soldier. The armless Christ is seen as a symbol of forgiveness and reconciliation, and people make pilgrimages to the church to pray to the “savior without arms.”

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