The crypt of the Jesuit Church of the Immaculate Conception and St. Ignatius, nowadays known as the Klatovy Catacombs, was built between 1656 and 1676. As intended by the master builders, the crypt was the last resting place of members of the Jesuit Order and their benefactors from amongst the local nobility, army and burghers. Between 1676 and 1783 over 200 bodies were laid to rest here. In 1784 Emperor Joseph II banned interment in crypts, so the last to be buried here was Antonín Weichs. Perhaps the best-known person resting here is Father Albert Chanovský of Dlouhá Ves, a missionary operating in south-west Bohemia in the first half of the 17th century.
The bodies were laid on a bed of hops in oak coffins. Each coffin was labelled with a lead identification plate. The bodies were gradually mummified by air fed into the crypts through an ingenious system of ventilation ducts, so that they now weigh only 8-10 kg. The ventilation system, which led out onto the roof of the church, ensured a relatively stable temperature and level of air humidity. The bodies remained untouched for many decades.
During the reconstruction of the church roof in the 1930s, the ventilation ducts leading up through the brickwork of the pillars to the eaves of the roof were obstructed by building waste. This resulted in the complete alteration of the atmosphere in the crypt and the majority of the mummies decayed. Consequently, in 1937, 140 mummies were buried in a mass grave in St. James´ graveyard in Klatovy. The burial site is marked by an inscribed commemorative stone.
Currently 30 mummified bodies can be seen in the catacombs. A further 7 bodies are kept apart, inaccessible to the public. All the bodies are maintained by conservationists and a climatologist is in charge of climatic conditions.
The catacombs, with their atmosphere connecting eternity with mortal time, have become an outstanding Klatovy landmark, reminding us of the history of the town and the Jesuit Order. Moreover, you can also look into the faces of those whose lives and deeds helped to create the face of Klatovy, still visible today; the church, the college, the seminary, the grammar school - all these buildings were built by the Jesuits, who substantially changed the architectural face of the south-western part of the town.
Although the catacombs can be visited as a separate monument today, they have always been part of the church. The original entrances to the…