Ossuaries or bone houses, called “Karner” in the Alpine regions, have become rarities in Germany.
During the Middle Ages, they were quite common in monasteries. When space became scarce at the cemetery, these buildings became the final resting place of the remains of the dead.
In contrast to today’s rather minimalist practice, ossuaries were richly decorated.
An example of such a bone house can be found on the premises of the Cistercian monastery church at Doberan, dating from the middle of the thirteenth century. The slim octagon was placed over the crypt. Up until the middle of the sixteenth century, it functioned as the monks’ final resting place.
Based on medieval remnants, the interior was richly decorated with paintings during the nineteenth century.
At the beginning of our century, the entire structure was extensively restored.
The monks had hardly skipped an opportunity to decorate the exterior of the brick structure.
The window section was furnished with horizontal rows of alternating darkly glazed and red stones. Delicate brick torus moldings frame the pointed-arch windows. Torus moldings enclose the eight sides of the structure as well.
Above the window section one can see dazzling decoration consisting of halved quatrefoils topped by gables with differently colored and shaped bricks, separated from the window section by narrow cornices.
The door, below a rosette, is decorated in a similar manner as the windows.