Visiting the unique crypt at the Franciscan monastery on All Souls’ Day (November 2) to view the mummified remains has long been a tradition in Kraków. But this year, visitors are barred – because of dangerous fungi that is growing there.
The 400-year-old human remains in the monastery crypt have been an attraction for locals and tourists alike, for many years. Normally they can be viewed just twice a year, on November 2 and 3, but water damage has caused the corpses to begin decomposing faster – and bacteria are breeding.
Now the monastery, on ulica Reformacka, is seeking urgent funding for repairs and restoration work in the crypt, which could be lost for good without swift action. The Social Committee for the Restoration of Kraków’s Monuments (SKOZK) could not provide the necessary money – but the monks at the monastery say they are too poor to foot the bill themselves.
Closing the crypt to the public is a precautionary measure, rather than a reflection of a serious threat to life. One of Kraków’s tales tells that, when the tomb of King Kazimierz Jagiellończyk was opened at Wawel in 1973, the archaeologists and priests present died after inhaling deadly spores. However, the truth is somewhat more prosaic. One of the first into the tomb was the man later to become Pope John Paul II; and Alfred Majewski, the first person to peek inside, lived until his 90s.
Althought the Kraków crypts are closed this year, it’s possible to take a look inside, thanks to this short film: