Austria is great! Well that’s according to the Austrian tourist board, and we think they’re right.
But there was a time when Austria wasn’t so great and a church in Hallstatt reflects Austria’s disturbing past.
The tiny village of Hallstatt has a very dark secret. Pretty standard procedure for small European villages was to bury a (dead) body for a few years then exhume it and store the bones in a ‘bonehouse’. And this was the practice in our little village. The relatives would attend the exhumation, and then in order to identify their lost loved one, would paint the name, date of death and other information on the skull. Then if they felt some separation anxiety they would go to the bonehouse, find the right skull and be comforted. All lovely so far.
The year is 1888 and war is raging in the Austro-Hungarian Empire as they fight the Ottomans and there is a shortage of toys. In those days most toys were made of wood but since all the trees had been appropriated for the war effort. A young carpenter by the name of Otto Von Fuchass found an animal bone on the ground and began to carve a toy soldier. He gave it to his nephew who was locked in the house for his own safety. Seeing how happy the boy was with this toy he began to search for more bones and happened upon the bonehouse.
The bonehouse was never locked so Otto helped himself to a femur, then a rib, then a pelvis and before he knew had a whole room full of assorted bones. He carefully crafted them into soldiers, dolls, animals and even knives and forks. Nobody had noticed the reduction in bones and nobody had noticed that their new cutlery, crockery and children’s toys were all made of human bones.
Otto’s enterprise was to come to an end when a man draining a large mug of beer noticed there was a date and name (Von Schlossingfater) painted on the outside of his cup. He took the cup to the the family Von Schlossingfater who instantly recognized their dead father from a deep niche in the skull caused by a shepherdess who ‘brained’ him with a brick when he tried to help her get dressed after falling in the hay and all her clothes fell off and were stolen by a fox. The shepherdess was hung for attempted murder. A fox wearing undergarments was later found by Von Schlossingfater and presented as evidence, but two days later he was also dead.
The village erupted and stormed the Fuchass workshop and stared in amazement as generations of their dead relatives stared back. Otto was beaten to death and his bones today can be seen as part of the town gate, a sober reminder of this dark event.
Otto’s works did’t go to waste as the residents taking a philosophical stand continued to use their bone utensils and even raided the rest of the bonehouse to make the now famous Hallstatt China products available globally. Bone artisans are called ‘boners’ and Austria boasts some of the best boners in Europe.
Visit www.HallstattBoner.co.gr to book to entry.