The medieval walled woman of Pecka Castle – a “witch” or a “construction sacrifice”?





Photo: Jana Házová, Czech Radio

“It’s a place that no one would pay much attention to otherwise. But when you enter the castle, you can see this discreet, walled-up alcove to the left, which hides a secret.

“Over the centuries, from time to time the gate and entrance to Pecka Castle have been altered and even moved. In Baroque times, there was a bakery here – but it’s no secret.

“So why are we here? At the beginning of the 20th century, in 1905, the skeleton of a medieval woman with black hair was discovered behind this alcove.




Jan Murdych |  Photo: Vladislava Wildová, Czech Radio

– Jan Murdych, there, who was born nearby in Pec pod Sněžkou. The castle has fascinated him since his childhood, long before he became his lord, and few are more imbued with its history (and the myths and legends that accompany it) than he.




Pecka Castle |  Photo: Jana Házová, Czech Radio

For example, it is said that far below is a secret underground corridor, in which Carthusian monks buried gold statues of the Twelve Apostles. Perhaps one day the passage will be found – or a myth proven – and that particular mystery will be solved.

But, says Mr Murdych, the real reason the raven-haired woman was entombed within the walls of Pecka Castle is probably forever lost in history.




Pecka Castle |  Photo: Vladislava Wildová, Czech Radio

“Similar cases appear in a number of other castles. In southern Europe, for example, sacrificial walls were particularly common. Also, for example, in bridges and even family homes.

“Most likely, the woman walled up in our castle was a human sacrifice when it was built. Indeed, many were buried alive – their spirits were then destined to protect the castles from soldiers seeking to seize them.

“Little is known for sure, but I can imagine that she was someone on the fringes of society. Many believe they were unfaithful wives or daughters of castle lords, or other people who have somehow dishonored the surname. We can also imagine that it was a quote from “witch”, condemned to death. “




Pecka Castle |  Photo: Jana Házová, Czech Radio

Prehistoric traces of living ritual burial – believed to have been carried out in order to curry favor with deities or ward off evil spirits – have been found in virtually every nation on earth.

But the practice of the grizzly continued in Europe throughout the Middle Ages, sometimes with the blessing of Christian authorities, as noted in 1909, a few years after the discovery of Pecka Castle, by the German-American philosopher. and student of comparative religion Paul Carus:




Paul Carus |  Source: Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 1.0

“Not some of the most important buildings [in Europe], especially castles and fortifications, are frequently found to have the remains of unfortunate victims under their cornerstones.

Indeed, archaeological evidence of such “construction sacrifices” from the early and early Middle Ages continues to be unearthed on Czech lands – more recently, in the form of three male skeletons in a wall in Moravia.


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