Military and political authorities have had a need to create what is usually known as a “Tomb of the unknown soldier”. There is no identified soldier buried here but these memorial sites are dedicated to all soldiers died in wars.
This is a rather new tradition dating back to WWI, but it has spread throughout the world not only to Christian countries. The first pictures are from one of the world’s most famous, in Moscow.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, outside the Kremlin, Moscow
Wars do not only have military casualties. Civilians have died as well, not least in modern warfare. One of the most important memorials is found in Japan commemorating the explosion of the first atomic bomb on 6 August 1945. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome) is a World Heritage Site.
The steel skeleton not only marks that this building was the only remaining after the destruction, or that the bomb exploded 300 metres directly above this place, but also that the building shall remind us of the terrible effect of nuclear weapons.
Another UNESCO site is found in Poland and is called the Auschwitz Birkenau – German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp (1940-1945). Up to 1.5 million people were killed here. Among my visits I might have included the camp at Buchenwald as well, but the horrors of pure extermination is far more telling at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Poland – Auschwitz – Birkenau Concentration Camp
There are many mass graves out there. One in particular I would like to mention here, are the mass graves on the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, outside Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Thousands of corpses have been excavated, thousands more have been left as they are.
Video from Choeung Ek outside Phnom Penh.
The catacombs date back almost two thousand years. The catacombs of Rome, where the early Christians would hide from Roman soldiers, are the originals but there are others around the world as well. Here at Via Appia we find the Catacombs of San Callisto with arcades stretching for 20 km.
Italy – Roma (Rome) – Via Appia
The grave chapel in Evora, Portugal is probably viewed as very odd by most visitors. I wrote this about it: Inside a chapel off the São Francisco church there is a large room filled with human remains; skulls, ribs, thigh bones and so on. 5000 humans are stacked on all four walls. The sign on the doorway into the chapel reads: “We, the bones that are here, await yours.”
Capela dos Ossos in Évora, Portugal
At last, a very special case
Do you know the story behind the song?
Eleanor Rigby’s grave, of Beatles fame. Liverpool, UK
This is the last chapter in this series about Religious Buildings. Check out the rest.