This year, I spent my birthday in Hungary. I devoted the morning to visiting Memento Park, then took the train 45 minutes from Budapest to Vác so I could see some dead people. You know what they say, find what you love and let it kill you.
In a seemingly all too common sequence of events, the Mummies of Vác were discovered during renovation work on the parish church in 1994. Hidden under the belfry, a walled-up staircase concealed 262 coffins containing completely or partially mummified corpses of (former) inhabitants of the city of Vác. The crypt served as a burial place from the 1730s and had been bricked up for almost 200 years.
The bodies have been used to study the prevalence of tuberculosis in the 18th century, and also demonstrate the use of c-section. During this period, Caesarean-section was only exclusively on mothers who had died in childbirth, as it was not possible to survive the operation at that time.
Almost as impressive as the bodies themselves are the coffins. Each one is a unique work of art, hand-painted with crucifixes, memento mori inscriptions, flowers, bible verses and symbols relevant to its owner. They come in a huge variety of colours, sizes and languages (German, Latin and Hungarian) and are in impressive condition.
Buying a ticket to see the Mummies of Vác was borderline farcical – I’ve never felt more like I was trapped in Faulty Towers in my life. All I wanted to see was the crypt and associated museum, and be permitted to use my camera. This was not, however, as simple a process as I might have hoped, and I ended up having a long convoluted conversation with the man at the cash desk. For this reason, I’m not really sure how much I paid, but I remember it wasn’t very much. If you don’t believe me, try to unravel their pricing scheme here. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day of the week except Tuesday.
Don’t miss the museum upstairs where you can see artifacts from the crypt. You can find the mummies at the Tragor Ignác Múzeum Memento Mori (address: Március 15. tér 19, Vác).
remember you will die
remember you are alive
Want more mummies? Try Mexico City.