Ossuary underneath the Church of St. James

In 2012 the ossuary underneath the Church of St. James was opened to public, more than 10 years after this unique place was discovered during the survey of the Brno underground in 2001. The ossuary can be visited throughout the year, Tuesdays to Sundays between 9:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Guided tours are offered every 30 minutes to groups of no more than 20 people. Due to high demand booking in advance is recommended.

Kstnice u sv. Jakuba

Anthropological analyses prove that these skeletal remains belong to victims of medieval plague and cholera epidemics, Thirty Years’ War battles and Swedish siege.

A cemetery adjacent to the Church of St. James had existed on the present-day Jakubské náměstí (square) in the 13th century. And just like other cemeteries, it had been established within the city’s walls, which is why its subsequent expansion, albeit needed, was impossible. Its capacity soon proved insufficient with regard to the growing city and new burial methods had to be introduced: 10 to 12 years after the funeral the grave of the deceased had to be opened and their remains removed, only to make room for a new deceased person. The contents of the graves were stored in special underground ossuaries.

A three-room crypt was probably built for this very purpose right underneath the floor of the church in the 17th century. Initially the number of skeletal remains was increasing slowly but around the 1750’s skeletal remains from former church crypts started to form two big piles. The speed at which these rooms were filled often increased as a result of plague and cholera epidemics which claimed thousands of lives. The permanent lack of space for the bones led to the expansion of the ossuary in 1741. As it turned out, the most practical solution was the expansion of the new ossuary underneath the cemetery and its connection to the crypt of the church. However the new ossuary was filled out in only six years and the city administration started negotiations on further expansion via a connection with the Chapel of the Dead that was located nearby. However the digging of the connecting tunnel stopped half way through and the plan was never completed.
Once the crypt and the ossuary underneath the cemetery were filled the staircase from the nave was covered over with a stone plate with Latin inscription. Following the reforms introduced by Joseph II, the church cemetery was closed in 1784 due to health concerns. The skeletal remains were moved to the crypt, the wall of the cemetery was torn down and the area around the church was paved with the obsolete headstones. Eventually the ossuary and its size and location fell into oblivion.

Therefore, it was a huge surprise when the survey prior to the renovation of the square around the church started in 2001. Several four-meter probes proved the existence of a large burial complex. Some rooms were filled all the way to the top. It was estimated they contained the skeletal remains of as many as 50,000 people. Analyses have shown that many of them fell victim to medieval plague and cholera epidemics, military operations during the Thirty Years’ War or the Swedish siege.

Sooner or later the accumulated humidity and moulds would have destroyed the bone material and the vault would have collapsed, causing disturbance of traffic on the busy square above it. The only way to save this unique landmark was revitalization. In the process, all remains were removed, cleaned and rearranged to the final resting place. It now serves as an example of burial methods at one of the oldest cemeteries in Brno.

Foreign visitors have seven different versions of the explanatory text at their disposal: English, German, Russian, Italian, Spanish, French and Polish.

Foreign visitors have seven different versions of the explanatory text at their disposal: English, German, Russian, Italian, Spanish, French and Polish.

Church of St. James ossuary

Church of St. James ossuary – entrance

Jakubské náměstí
658 78 Brno

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday: 9:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Monday closed 

Admission fees:

FullCZK 140
Students, seniorsCZK 70
Children under 15CZK 70
Children under 6free
Family package 2+2CZK 380
 - plus any child under 15CZK 50
Senior pass10% discount
Family pass5% discount
Groups (at least 20 people)10% discount
CamcorderCZK 50
Use of camerasfree
Press admission (upon presentation of press identification)free

Debit cards accepted.

Buy tickets to two underground landmarks and get 10 % off!
If you buy tickets to two of the tree underground landmarks (the labyrinth underneath the Vegetable Market, the Mint Master’s Cellar, the ossuary in the Church of St. James) at the same time, you will get 10 % off the total price.

Ticket office and bookings:

+420 515 919 793

Mgr. Zuzana Hladká
+420 542 427 145
+420 602 128 120