The quest for immortality has resulted in the construction of some

Photo Atlas Obscura

rather amazing mausoleums and tombs, a few of which are engineering marvels. Others have morphed into major tourist attractions that, ironically, overshadow the legacy of the interred.

In the small Czech city of Sedlec a relatively non descript Roman Catholic chapel that dates to the 13th century is celebrated as an artistic wonder. The center piece of the macabre Sedlec Ossuary artwork is more than 40,000 human skeletons arranged to form decorations, chandeliers, interior cornices, and furnishings!

Aside from the unusual ornamentation, the chapel has a long and colorful history rooted in legend. Purportedly the cemetery became a favored burial place for the rich and famous after an abbot returned from a trip to the Holy Land and sprinkled dirt from Golgotha, the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, over the grounds. When the cemetery was filled, skeletons were simply stored.

František Rint, a woodcarver, was hired in 1870 to put heaps of bones in order. Instead he chose to use the skeletal remains to decorate the chapel. He created an imposing chandelier, a coat of arms of the family that that had hired him, and even crafted an “artist’s signature” done in bone, of course!

In Newgrange, in County Meath, Ireland, stands a unique monument to mans quest for immortality. Surprisingly, the burial mound is relatively obscure. As it is one of the world’s oldest surviving building, estimates are that it was built between 3300 and 2900 B.C., the lack of recognition is rather surprising. This circular mound measures 250 feet across and 40 feet high, and covers an entire acre. Beneath the mound a long tunnel leads to a high-domed burial chamber with a vaulted ceiling made of intricately locked, massive stone slabs. A huge curbstone adorned with elaborate carvings stands at the entrance. Little is known about the people who built the structure, or for whom it was built centuries before Sonehenge or the Great Pyramid in Egypt.

In stark contrast to the simplistic design of the Newgrange mound is Westminster Abbey. A Gothic masterpiece the abbey was initially established by Benedictine monks in the tenth century, and lavishly expanded in the 13th century during the reign of King Henry III. It is church of coronation for British royalty, and the final resting place for royalty and celebrities. Interred here are authors Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, and Alfred Tennyson, and scientist Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Ernest Rutherford.

The Great Pyramid is, perhaps, the most famous attempt at immortality ever undertaken. This, however, is only one of more than a hundred pyramids in a complex known as the Giza Necropolis outside of Cairo, Egypt. In addition to the Great Pyramid of Giza built for pharaoh Khufu or Cheops. also located here is the Great Sphinx,  the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure, and numerous smaller satellite pyramids.

As an historic footnote, the Great Pyramid of Giza is the only surviving structure of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Completed in about 2560 BC, the pyramid was constructed of blocks weighing an estimated 1.5 tons each on average. The blocks in the roof of the burial chamber are estimated to weigh more than 80 tons each.

Arizona Affordable Funeral Home and Crematory may not be able to assure you of dubious immortality in the form of an oversize monument that will survive the centuries. However, they can assure you of profession, courteous service during your time of loss and sadness.

Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America

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