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Milan’s Bizarre Church Of Human Skulls (San Bernardino)

San Bernardino Milan

San Bernardino alle Ossa

Milan, Italy

San Bernardino alle Ossa is a creepy church in Milan decorated with human skulls. However this Italian bone church has an interesting history.

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UPDATE: Since writing this post, the church has now banned photography inside the Ossuary. You can no longer take photos.[/su_note]

While basing myself in Milan to explore Northern Italy by train, I’d heard rumors of a strange Catholic church hidden away in the center of the city, completely decorated with human remains.

It’s called San Bernardino alle Ossa, aka “The Bone Church”.

Apparently back in the 13th century, a local cemetery found itself running out of room. Fresh bodies from the nearby hospital were piling up — with nowhere to bury them.

So officials began to dig up old skeletons, moving them from the cemetery to a small chamber.

Eventually, a church was built next to the bone room, probably because they felt a bit guilty.

San Bernardino Milan

San Bernardino alle Ossa

Church Ossuary Milan

Entrance to the Ossuary

Milan Skull Church

Giant Cross of Skulls

Italy’s Bone Church

Today San Bernardino alle Ossa has a small side chapel filled with hundreds of these human skulls & other bones from the middle ages.

If you’re curious, you can visit the ossuary and see them for yourself. Like I did.

When you walk through the front door, look right and you’ll see an altar between two doors. The left door leads down a long & dark hallway to the bone room.

It’s small, but with a high vaulted ceiling painted with beautiful frescos by the artist Sebastiano Ricci.

The walls are slightly morbid though. Human skulls & femurs are stacked up behind wire mesh to form crosses. They’re attached to pillars and doors in all sorts of different designs & patterns, completely covering the room.

Bone Church Milan

Cage Full of Bones

San Bernardino Fresco

Colorful Frescos by Sebastiano Ricci

Skulls in Milan

Skulls of Beheaded Criminals

San Bernardino alle Ossa

Most of the human remains here are from the overflowing cemetery or hospital patients that didn’t make it (a frequent occurrence in the Middle Ages), however, there is a special case over the back doors full of skulls from criminals who were beheaded for their crimes.

Above the center altar, a statue of the Virgin Mary (or Queen of Heaven) stands encased in glass, surrounded by bones.

Located only a short walk away from Milan’s famous Duomo Cathedral, the San Bernardino ossuary is a fascinating place and well worth a visit if you’re traveling in the city. ★

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Ossuary Entry Fee: Free
Opening Hours:
Location: MAP

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Milan’s Bizarre Church Of Human Skulls! More at expertvagabond.com
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READ MORE ITALY TRAVEL TIPS

I hope you enjoyed my guide to San Bernardino ossuary! Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:

Would you enter this bone church in Milan? Do you enjoy visiting unusual attractions like this? Let me know in the comments below!

James

Thursday 13th of February 2020

We stopped by this past fall. On a Sunday. Beware, the side chapel with all the skulls is closed on Sundays.

Lili Valentine

Thursday 7th of June 2018

This church was AMAZING - good find! This crazy place was definitely one of my favorite sights in Milan. How were you able to take pictures?? Haha. When we went, photos were unfortunately prohibited.

Christine

Sunday 20th of May 2018

This seems like such an interesting (and creepy!) church to visit in Milan!! I'm heading in that direction in two weeks, will have to check it out now. Thanks for the idea!

John J. Lumona

Sunday 23rd of July 2017

Greetings to you all, I am a Tanzania citizen i need to vist the church and join them, what to do now. I will be happy if i got help and information.

Thanks.

Milena Yordanova

Monday 9th of January 2017

I visited this church during my last trip to Milan. It was quite an interesting experience! If you are into these things, don’t miss to visit the Capuchin Crypt in Rome, Italy.

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