The Remains of the Romanesque Ossuary (Bone House)

The oldest sight in Trnava, the remains of the Romanesque ossuary (bone house), is situated at the highest point of the historical town centre. The perished St. Martin’s Church and the surrounding cemetery closed in the 18th century together create the area of the parish church. Use of this area as a cultic point reaches further into history, which was proven by the discovery of Slavic graves from the 9th -10th centuries close to the current parish church of St. Nicolaus.As ossuaries were never built separately, but as a part of parish churches, the first indirect record of the Trnava ossuary’s existence can be considered the first written documents on the parish church originating in 1211 and 1212.It was a two-floor building with a circular ground plan, a chapel, and an ossuary. Its inner diameter was 6.5 m and the outer was 8.5m. The underground floor was built from stone and most of it is preserved. It used to reach a height of 6.5 m, and was vaulted by an arch reaching the abutting against the middle column. The above ground floor was the chapel with a horseshoe apse oriented to the east, including a sanctuary with an altar and it is assumed that it was walled by burnt bricks mixed with grain chaff. The building with its ground plan parameters represents one of the biggest ossuaries within Slovakia. The custom of placing cemetery buildings close to parish churches originated in the 12th century in Lower Austria, and it came to Trnava with advancing German colonization. The origin of this type of architecture arose from practical reasons. After a long period, the capacity of the cemetery was filled. In order to use it henceforth, human remains were extracted and gathered in one symbolic grave, the underground floor of the ossuary. This way a long-term and continual burial was ensured.The Trnava ossuary became a reverent burial site of thousands of skeleton remains of Romanesque Trnava citizens. It apparently ceased to exist long before the construction of the current gothic church. In the 14th century, during the digging of the church’s sanctuary foundations, workers accidentally hit upon its underground wall and the foundation track direction needed to be modified. However, the reasons why it ceased to exist are unknown.

The Remains of the Romanesque Ossuary (Bone House)


The Remains of the Romanesque Ossuary (Bone House)
Mikuláša Schneidera Trnavského 3
917 01 Trnava

N 48.378952507 / E 17.592340708


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