Chapelle Saint-Michele: What Lies Beneath

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Ossuary/crypt underneath Chapelle Saint-Michele

What you need to know is this; I was screaming inside my head while I took the above photo. That being said, if you can see beyond the thick spider webs across the glass inside the crypt there is a metal grate holding in piles and piles of something.

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I moved closer to the door, still screaming, to get a closer shot and this is the pic. More screaming. It appears someone with coral-ish pants and white shoes is standing inside the crypt, and even inside the cage. I look down, oh wait, that’s my reflection (although my shoes aren’t white). Screaming ceases, for the moment. But, still can’t quite make out what all that stuff is behind the metal cage.

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I try the other door, locked, but look what’s at the opposite end of the crypt. A beautiful stained glass window and what must have been an altar area. Hmm.

At this point, I decide to walk outside the village wall to try to get a better view from the other windows. It’s a lovely day and a very short walk, so join me won’t you?

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We’re now on the outer wall, looking through the windows. If you look closely you can see the walls are painted, murals, trim, all faint images.

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Look. There’s a lovely tree motif on the base of the ribbed vault. And there’s a sign. In Alsatian, which is similar to German. It says something about it being right to be near the master with a date of 1463. If you look closer you can see that these are BONES. Lots and lots of skulls, what appear to be arm and leg bones. I’m officially creeped out.

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Let me distract you for a moment with another pic of the lovely murals on the ceiling and archways. Okay, it’s time for a bit of research to find out why all these skeletal remains were put here in 1463. Maybe there’s something about it inside the chapel above us. Let’s check it out. We’ll have to walk back around through the gate that leads into the village. Follow me.

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For a little bit of perspective, the ancient and WWI and WWII cemetery is just to our left. The chapel is straight ahead, and the ossuary where we were standing earlier with all the cobwebbed glass is just to the right.

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After climbing the old steps inside the cemetery, I discover this upper door is locked. I was hoping to discover some secret passageway inside with more adventures. But I guess they will remain a secret, and we will have to use the main entrance. The chapel is quite lovely inside, and I would post more photos but they have a glass wall, with a locked door keeping us from touching anything inside or getting a decent pic.

I researched this chapel and ossuary online and in books and discovered it was rebuilt in 1463. I have yet to find a specific date earlier than this, but it was sometime in the 1200s. The painting inside the ossuary is dated 1514. These resources say the bones are from the village cemetery that had been placed outside the wall of the village in 1511. However, when I asked people who live in Kaysersberg today, they tell me these are the bones of the people who died in the plague that struck the city in the 1400s. There were so many they piled them up inside the ossuary.  I like their story much better! So, this is my tale. There was a terrible plague (the Plague Cross, dated 1511, can still be scene in the ancient cemetery next to the chapel), and the bodies were all buried outside the village. At a later point, it was decided to retrieve these poor bones and give them a final resting place near their Master underneath the chapel, a sacred burial place. I wonder what this crypt is like on October 31.

What do you think?