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Discover dapper dead dudes in Deutschland

One of the skeletons in the Waldsassen Basilica, in Waldsassen, Germany.

MARTIN EGNASH/STARS AND STRIPES

By MARTIN EGNASH | Stars and Stripes | Published: April 11, 2019

Do you tire of gorgeous, historic churches all over Europe? Are you sick of the quaint wholesomeness that you find all over charming villages? Are you a big fan of the Korn song “Dead Bodies Everywhere,” and also like history? Then, boy, do I have a church for you to visit.

In the beautiful town of Waldsassen, a 40-minute drive from Grafenwoehr, is a basilica that is a little more macabre than most of the places I’ve been to. In fact, it’s a little more macabre than anything short of a Swedish metal music video.

The Waldsassen Basilica, right on the Czech border, is home to ancient skeletons dressed up in the fanciest garments imaginable and put on display all around the church.

The skeletons are Christian martyrs exhumed from the catacombs in Rome in the 16th century.

Known as the “Holy Bodies” to the congregation, little is known about each skeleton, except that one is reputed to be St. Valentinus and is now dressed in an 18th century deacon’s cassock.

Now, they are dressed up from foot bone to cranium in elaborate Baroque finery, complete with jewel-encrusted shoes and gilded helmets.

Some of them are set up in poses holding golden goblets with jewels in their empty eye sockets or spread across their display cases as one would imagine a jazz singer lying across a piano in the 1920s.

Each one is unique, and it’s seriously the strangest thing I’ve ever seen in a church.

Besides the skeletons, the basilica is cool too. There are beautiful paintings on the ceilings and walls, and you can spend more time than you would think just walking around and admiring the art in this lesser-known church.

You can take an old spiral staircase to one of the bell towers to get a great view of the surrounding area.

Waldsassen itself is an interesting small town, with other sights to see as well. A stunning Abbey library near the basilica would warrant a visit to the town by itself.

There are also plenty of restaurants, cafes and a huge brewery nearby, which makes a quick trip to Waldsassen worth your while.

egnash.martin@stripes.com
Twitter: @Marty_Stripes

 

DIRECTIONS: Address: Basilikapl. 6, 95652 Waldsassen
About 40 minutes away from Grafenwoehr in the direction of Cheb, Czech Republic.
TIMES: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
COSTS: Free. Donations accepted.
FOOD: Plenty of restaurants, cafes and a huge brewery nearby.
INFORMATION: Appropriate dress is semiformal (church wear).

One of the skeletons in the Waldsassen Basilica, in Waldsassen, Germany, Wednesday, April 3, 2019.
MARTIN EGNASH/STARS AND STRIPES

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