My friend Grey just got back from a trip to Italy wherein he had the opportunity to visit Otranto Ossuary. I am envious! ^_^ This is one of the ossuaries I’d like to visit myself some day. He was kind enough to take several photos for me, which I’m sharing here. The bones are behind glass, so he said it was difficult to get a decent shot but here are the photos he sent me. (All photos by Grey Zane).
I like this one the best, because it gives you a sense of the impact of the bones themselves, flanking the high altar.
Here is a close up of the skulls.
And here another.
Paul Koudounaris, in his wonderful book The Empire of Death, notes that this was the first Italian ossuary to house the remains of the battle dead. In 1480, Otranto was sacked by the Turks and priests were tortured and, along with locals, massacred.(1) In 1500, remains, upwards of 900 skulls and other bits were disinterred and moved to the ossuary, where they remain to this day. In the eighteenth century, they were canonized en masse.
These are powerful places, places that remind us the dead are always near; places that remind us of the rightness of veneration.
- See Koudounaris, Paul, The Empire of Death, London, UK: Thames and Hudson, 2011, p. 157.