A Thief's Severed Arm

Atlas Obscura continues their 31 Days of Halloween series with a church in the Czech Republic in which a man was buried alive. The Church of St. James the Greater (Kostel Sv. Jakuba Vetsiho) in Prague also has a mummified human arm hanging from the ceiling! How did it get there?

A long time ago, the story goes, probably around the 16th or 17th century, a man entered the church at night. He crossed the same threshold that groups of tourists still cross today, and just like them, he marveled at the beauty of the church. Precious stones and gold glinted in the candlelight, but the jewels adorning an icon of the Virgin Mary caught his eye. Certainly those would be more useful to him than to a statue. He climbed up and pried one loose.

The icon broke her pose and wrapped her cold stone hand around his arm. She kept him there until morning when a group of monks discovered him. They tried to free him. Perhaps they even forgave him. But it was no use. The icon remained unmoved. With all other options exhausted, they were forced to ask the parishioners for help. The church was, after all, near the butchers’ guild.

Yes, they cut his arm off, without anesthesia. The icon then released its grip, and the butchers hung the arm from the ceiling as a warning to others who might consider stealing from the church. What happened to the would-be thief afterward is not recorded. But what about the man who was buried alive in the church? That happened about a hundred years later, and you can read the whole story at Atlas Obscura

(Image credit: Flickr user Christian Bredfeldt)

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