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Fascinating and creepy: the mummies of Slavic people

They are different than in Egypt but still fascinating

I guess when you hear the word ”mummy” your thoughts run straight to the landscapes of Egypt. You imagine bandaged bodies of people who lived thousands of years ago near the Nile river. However, mummies exist in many parts of the world, including Europe. Slavic mummies are naturally made. The state of bodies preservation was caused by the microclimate of the burial place. Three of the most famous examples of naturally made mummies are located in Croatia and Poland.

Croatian saint with waxy face

Photo: Richard Mortel / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

No other Slavic mummy is as fascinating as the remains of Saint Silvan. He was a Christian martyr, who lived in the first half of the 4th century A.D. Although he died centuries ago, his body looks like he died recently. After 17 centuries since his death, he is apparently in-corrupted. Silvan was very young when he was murdered. His body looks like made of wax, but on his neck is still a big scar which is believed to have caused his martyrdom. His biography is unknown, it is even uncertain if he was a Christian. However, according to the Catholic Church, Silvan was very devoted to Christianity. It is believed that he was born and died in Dubrovnik. However, some sources suggest he was Silvanus, Bishop of Emesa, Phoenicia, martyred c. 311. No matter who was he, the body located in the chapel in Croatia stays one of the fascinating ancient human remains. How to explain the state of conservation of his body? If you are willing to see the in-corrupted Saint Silvan you have to visit the Church of St Blaise at Dubrovnik.

Mummy of a soldier from Polish Olsztyn

Photo: Robert Drózd / Wikimedia commons

Near the city of Częstochowa in Poland is a small town named Olsztyn (don’t mistake it with the city of Olsztyn in Northern Poland). In the catacombs of the church of John de Baptist is located a body of a man who died in 1769. Although his name was lost through the time and now nobody can identify him, his uniform, buttons, and shoes stayed in good condition. Moreover, his face remained partly preserved, as well as his hands. Surprisingly well-preserved parts of his body allowed to imagine how did he look like. While looking at his face, the one might have in mind many questions that don’t find the answer.Nobody knows the details related to the short life of this man. Sadly, until now no scientific group, no professional researcher decided to examine the body. The condition of the body surprises every person who visits the church. Although his remains survived for so man centuries, it demands renovation. The parish of the church constantly tries to find funds to save the body of the soldier. After all, it stays the greatest tourist attractions of Olsztyn.

Mummies from the monastery in Kraków

Photo: krakow-info.com

Another interesting catacomb is located in the monastery in Kraków located at the Reformacja Stree. It consists the burials dated back even to the seventeenth century. The church of St. Kazimierz was built the second half of the seventeenth century. The underground section of the church was dedicated to the world of death. It became a place of burial to the hundreds of people. Among them were monks and the citizens of Kraków. In the 1970s sixty coffins became part of an unusual ‘exhibition”. Their coffins received elements made of glass, what allows to present them to the visitors. Why would the one like to see the bodies from St Kazimierz church? The mummies of people buried there seem to be well preserved, so looking at them gives an insight into the past. The parts of their clothes are still well preserved too. Unfortunately, currently, the access to the catacombs might be limited. Due to the lack of conservation, the mummies started to be dangerous to the visitors. Kraków still keeps in mind the tragic results of the exhumation of the Polish king Kazimierz Jagiellończyk n 1973 that cost the lives of most of the archeological team. Therefore, as long as the catacomb might bring the risk of infection by the dangerous bacteria, the access might be limited.

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