24 July 2009

The Skull Cathedral of Otranto

Before dismissing the image as yet another pretty picture of a medieval church, take a closer look. Yes,those are skulls. Instead of the usual alter pictures, there is a wall of skulls, displayed prominently for the church congregation. Meet the martyrs of Otranto Catherdral in Italy's Apulia region.

The year was 1480and the fateful day July 28 when a fleet of 70 to 200 Ottoman ships reached the city of Otranto, then part of the Kingdom of Naples. It was the beginning of  the Ottoman wars (1454 - 1683) in Europe and invader Mohammed II had conquered Constantinople just 28 years earlier. The garrison and the citizens took cover in the Castle of Otranto but as it had no cannons for defense, it was soon conquered and the garrison killed.

On August 12th, 800  citizens were taken to the hill of Minerva, now called the Hill of the Martyrs, and beheaded because they refused to renounce their Catholic faith. Their remains were taken to the cathedral and the skulls preserved in the alter piece as a prominent reminder of these 800 martyrs.


  1. I was discussing this with Glenn yesterday.. and he kind of had the same impression as you Kyle.. BUT as I said to him, if you think about it .. religion is faith.. these poor souls had faith enough to die for what they believed in.. so for me, the way I look at it.. its not disturbing, what better resting place for them than in the sacred home of the God they died for.

  2. well said, but still a little disturbing. Great post Angie.

    How's that for noncommittal? LOL

    I hope you're well :D

  3. Hi "clearly" .. I am doing really well thankyou.. Every weekend (give or take a few) I ask what yr plans are .. you ever going to get back to me .. just messin with you . Thanks for the "non committal" comment. Oh and I hope life is treating you kindly also. Angie

  4. see your guestbook ;)

    ...and enjoy life!

  5. Interesting yet.... yeah... lol kinda creepy. I would love to visit the place with my camera!