January 31, 2008

Painted Death

In a small town in Hungary, a Dominican church was being restored when workers came upon a secret crypt that been bricked up for over 200 years.

Inside the crypt were 265 hand painted coffins, the corpses perfectly mummified.

     Painted Death

Painted Death from Curious Expeditions. 

Everything from the rosaries to the handmade stockings on their feet were equally intact, offering a gold mine for ethnographers on the funerary customs and everyday life of 18th century Hungarian villages. There was something there for doctors as well; traces of ancient tuberculosis. An Australian surgeon, Dr. Mark Spigelman, has devoted the past 6 years to studying the bacteria found in one mummy in particular, and the information gleaned from this ancient DNA could provide information that will help fight tuberculosis.

Each coffin had been lovingly hand-painted with crucifixes, flowers, quotations, bible verses, angles, skull and crossbones, hourglasses, and Memento Mori inscriptions. No coffin is a repeat of another; the variety of color, decoration, motif and even language (some in German, some Hungarian, some Latin) is simply incredible. These coffins seem to be painted with an almost joyous hand, as a celebration of the life, not a mourning of the death. One coffin, belonging to a miner, is painted with bones, skulls and a miner’s pick and shovel. Each coffin had been personalized with great thought and care.

Many thanks to Miss Kelly.

Posted by Jill Fallon at January 31, 2008 9:46 AM | Permalink