In the following guest post, Morbid Anatomy foreign corespondent Eric Huang reports on the memento mori-themed crypt of Prague's Loreto Church. All photos are his own. For more, see this previous post from 2012, or come visit the full catalog in the Morbid Anatomy Library!
A remarkable discovery was made in 2011 when the crypt at the Loreto Church in Prague was opened for the first time in centuries. What they discovered was a burial chamber ornately decorated in black and white memento mori frescos from 1664 created by an unknown artist.
The crypt is not open to the public, but a recreation of the main chamber is on display at the Loreta Praha Museum. The exhibit entryway is flanked by puti and curtained like a sideshow attraction in a red light district. A volunteer told me the curtains are there as a warning to families as the exhibit proved unsuitable for certain families. Indeed, two little girls dragged their mother out of the curtains, screaming whilst running away just as we approached!
The replica is to-scale. The room is dimly lit and quite narrow with low ceilings. Skeletons, hourglasses, and Catholic allegories depicting the passage of time and the resurrection adorn every wall. The few lights in the room serve to highlight the more macabre imagery, rather than replicate how the chamber would’ve historically appeared when lit for a burial or a requiem mass. It’s all very atmospheric – less accurate than theatrical. Gone is a room for somber, Catholic reflection and devotion. In its place is a wonderful sideshow of sorts. No wonder the little girls found the exhibit too scary!
The crypt exhibit alone is worth visiting the Loreta Praha, but you must wander through the complex to see the sacred treasures on display, in particular a mummified foot (see bottom image) encased in a casket that forms the base of a crystal reliquary cross from the early 18th century.