The return of the Brno mummy!
There is a place in Moravia where you can see real mummies. They are not as old as those in Egypt, but old enough to generate genuine scientific interest among anthropologists at Masaryk University in Brno. Vít Pohanka made the trip to eastern Czechia and found out that quite soon one of the mummies might be brought back to (virtual) life.
“Visitors can see two rows of Friars clothed in the remains of their typical brown habit. They were not buried in coffins but laid directly on the bare ground with only a couple of bricks under their heads. That was a typical burial custom in the Capuchin Order in line with the philosophy of Saint Francis of Assisi their founder. He criticized the Catholic Church’s tendency to accumulate worldly property and wealth. This is a kind of a thin red line going through the whole history of the order. So up to this day, if anyone enters the order, they have to promise to observe the principles of purity, poverty, and obedience. By laying on the bare ground they demonstrate they do not need even a coffin – that this would be a needless luxury.”
The Capuchin Crypt of Brno was used until Holy Roman Emperor and ruler of the Habsburg Lands Joseph II initiated reforms intended to modernize the life of his subjects. One of his edicts, or patents as they were called then, concerned burial practices. In 1784 such an edict banned burying the dead within the city limits, in order to prevent the possible spread of diseases. By then some 200 people had been buried in the Brno Crypt and the remains of many of them have survived to this day:
The mummies of Brno are not just some sort of macabre tourist attraction or curiosity for the general public. They are a subject of genuine scientific interest and study. I was invited to the Department of Anthropology at Masaryk University in Brno by assistant professor Petra Urbanova. She promised an expert explanation of the “mummy phenomenon” for a lay person like me:
Both experts and the Capuchin Order would like to popularize the unique crypt. And when it comes to that there is no better way than to use the posthumous services of probably the most famous person buried in the Crypt: Baron Franz von der Trenck. Kateřina Hlouchová tells me more about him:
The Department of Anthropology at Masaryk University in Brno is now working on bringing Baron Trenck back to life – in virtual reality, that is. Experts are using the most modern technologies: 3D imaging and printing, CT scan (or computer tomography scan). It will take some time, but pretty soon she and her colleagues will be able to state, that the mummy of Baron Trenck is truly back and visitors will be able to interact with it.