The Italian Church with Walls of Skulls

Otranto cathedral in Italy with skulls displayed on walls War memorials are built to honour the lives of soldiers or freedom fighters who died during war, but this particular place had a unique way of preserving an important piece of history.

A Cathedral in Otranto city, Apulia region in south Italy has skulls of 800 people adorning the wall instead of altar pictures.

The bones and skulls are well-displayed for the church congregation, it might seem bizarre at first but these were the martyrs of Otranto! Its a story of bravery and faith, and generally when its a matter of religion, there has been massacre and destruction, history proves it!

Let’s go way back in time in 1480 when the Ottomans or the Turks invaded Otranto city. A fleet of 70 to 200 Ottoman ships arrived in Otranto and the locals and garrison took shelter at the Castle of Otranto. There were no cannons at the castle, hence it was soon captured by the Ottomans and the garrison was killed by the troops of Mohammed II. Skulls of martyrs on cathedral wall in Italy What happened next is gruesome, the locals who refused to convert to Islam, there were 800 of them, were taken to the hill of Minerva, now known as the Hill of the Martyrs, and beheaded.

So to honour these locals, who gave their lives to protect their faith, the cathedral preserved the skulls and bones of 800 martyrs behind glass of the altar walls, so it constantly reminds people of the past. Every year during that period on August 14th, this small town of Otranto commemorates the slaughtered souls.


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A nature-loving, spiritual being and co-founder of Fractal Enlightenment, who thrives to help fellow beings re-connect with nature and their inner selves. Thank you for being part of this journey.

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