Monday, June 11, 2007

Human remains

Because Mave was so kind as to indulge me and ask about the big pile of human remains I mentioned three posts ago (as an apparently ineffective means of trolling for comments), an explanation.

Kaysersberg is the pretty-little-Alsatian-village of choice for our tours when we have a car. It was the birthplace of Nobel Peace prize winner Albert Schweitzer, full of perfect little houses, has a castle accessible with a five minute walk and is only about an hour's drive from Strasbourg.

We've therefore been three or four times, meaning I've developed a tour of Kayserberg that is, proportionally speaking, nearly as in-depth as the one I have for Strasbourg.

As in Strasbourg, most of it centres on the church, which has a number of interesting features (including a wooden carving of the figure of Death when he was in short pants).

Awww, Baby Death! Didn't he have a Saturday morning cartoon?

The larger part of the church-tour is in the back yard, where few tourists (bar the terminally morbid, such as myself) tend to roam. Here there is a monument and small graveyard to honour the volunteers from France's North African colonies that fought to liberate the country that had occupied theirs from its own occupiers - explaining why, were the glare from the sun not obscuring them, you'd see many of the visible gravestones are decorated with Arabic writing.

Beyond that is a little chapel. It's almost always closed, but the first time we visited, I noticed there were some stairs outside leading down to its cellar. It was locked, but it's possible to see through the windows. Within are an enormous pile of bones, dating from the 13th century. They were stored here, presumably because the small graveyard couldn't accomodate them all. Or, given that they're from the 13th century it's also possible that people were dying too fast in the plague to bury them all.

In any case, if you look closely, you'll can see that the bones are not stored, as you might expect, according to the individual from which they came, but rather by bone type i.e. all the skulls in one pile, all the femurs in another. I assume this is to facilitate easier stacking. (I thought I had a decent photo of this, but unfortunately it just looks like a pile of stryofoam. And anyway, who wants to see a big pile of skulls?)

1 comment:

Maeve said...

Aw, little baby Grim Reaper! Hope ours are just as cute. Maybe we could get them little scythe-rattles?

(so I make one editing joke, and I'm henceforth known as "Mave" eh? Real mature, snarky-Mark.)