Hallstatt Guided Walking Tour, the Church, and the House of Bones
Tour Participation Requirements
The value of land comes into sharp focus in picturesque Hallstatt; because in this idyllic town, nestled on an incredibly narrow strip between the Dachstein Mountains and a clear blue lake, there's no land to spare.
For thousand of years, Hallstatt has yielded the wealth that comes from one of the world's most useful raw materials: salt. (Hal is Celtic for salt.) But in contrast to the vast amounts of salt that have been mined, there's precious little land to go around. Meaning that the cemetery did not have enough space for all town residents to be buried there.
As a result, burying corpses vertically, and exhuming them after 10 to 20 years so the plot could be re-used, became standard practice. But the exhumed skulls had to go somewhere, and that gave birth what today is known as the House of Bones (Beinhaus), the ossuary at Hallstatt's Catholic Parish Church.
Skulls from the exhumed corpses would be cleaned and exposed to sunlight until they were bleached white. Beginning in the 18th century, it became acceptable to decoratively paint the skulls, often including the person's name and date of death.
On this tour you'll see over 1,200 documented skulls in the House of Bones, 610 of which have been painted. The last addition came in 1995, from a woman who died in 1983.
Her last request was to be stored there.
Peppered with prehistoric artifacts
Salt has always been a vital commodity. Not only was it used to preserve meats before refrigeration, and flavor food that was bland, at best; the salt in Hallstatt's mines – the oldest mines in the world – preserved the artifacts that provided so much insight into a prehistoric culture now referred to by the name of this idyllic Austrian village,
Full refunds issued for cancellations made 7 full days prior to the date and time of requested services. Cancellations made within the 7-day and 72-hour window will receive a 50% refund of purchase total. Purchases are non-refundable inside of 72 hours.