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charnel-house

charnel-house.
1. Building (sometimes purpose-built), crypt, ossuary, or vault where the bones of disinterred dead are stored as new graves are required in a churchyard. Once very common in medieval England, charnel-houses became less usual from C16 as religious practices concerned with the dead changed with the Reformation, although a three-bay charnel-house of brick with stone dressings was built at the end of C17 in the churchyard of St Nicholas, Deptford Green, London. Charnel-houses may be found on the Continent today, especially where burial-space is limited, as in Alpine churchyards, and several decorative charnel-houses exist, where walls and ceilings are covered with bones arranged in patterns (e.g. Capuchin Church, Rome).

2. Place of deposit for dead bodies which dry out in certain conditions, as in Palermo, Sicily.

Bibliography

Ariès (1981);
Litten (1991)

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