Die Sommersdorfer Kirche vom Südwesten aus gesehen


The Mummies of Schloss Sommersdorf

A family crypt is located in one of the extended catacombs below the Church. Mostly members of the Crailsheim family, are being buried here. Without being embalmed they are mummified.
A lithography by Johann Bergmann from the 1833 shows five mummies (from left to right):

Figure 1: Julius Wilhelm Freiherr von Crailsheim, chest master of the canton Altmühl Valley and Patrimonal-Judge at Sommersdorf-Thann. He was deadly wounded in a hunting accident in 1812 and buried in the crypt.
Figure 2: The identity of the mummy is unclear, probably it’s a lady “von Rauber”
Figure 3: Baroness Luise von Schenck by Geyern, née Baroness von Crailsheim.
Figure 4: Baroness Sophie Luise von Kniestätt, née Baroness von Crailsheim. She died only 42 years old after stillbirth of her eighth child of childbed fever. Bent arms and cramped hands lead to the suspicion, that she was buried alive.
Figure 5: Baron von Holz, a relative of the Crailsheim family. He was given refuge during the 30-year war at Schloss Sommersdorf. He died under mysterious circumstances. Freiherr von Holz is unusually tall. He was buried in is high cuff boots. The corpse is well preserved.
More information, see “The Sommersdorf mummies—An interdisciplinary investigation on human remains from a 17th-19th century aristocratic crypt in southern Germany”

Lithographie der Mumien von Schloss Sommersdorf von Johann Bergmann aus dem Jahr 1833
The crypt has an eventful history. 1806 the mummified Crailsheim ancestors were discovered by Napoleon soldiers. The news arose general curiosity. In 1822 the crypt was restored and the lids of the coffins were screwed down. This should however not be for long – onlookers opened them again. Only in 1864 the Mummies were left in peace and the coffins were sealed again. 1871 Prince Adalbert of Bavaria told the village blacksmith to reopen the tombs.
Because the mummies of Sommersdorf are preserved without being embalmed, there had been a lot of speculations about the cause of mummification, like underground water veins and earth rays and other. After world war II Americans found radioactivity with a Geiger counter.


International Exhibitions

In connection with the exhibition Mummies of the World (REM Museum Mannheim) extensive investigations of the Sommersdorf mummies was carried out in 2007. The scientists came to the conclusion that mummification is caused by the drying of tissue.

Two of the Mummies: Colonel Baron von Holz and Baroness Sophie Freifrau Schenck von Geyern were shown in “Mummies of the World” an international Exhibition in several museums in Europe and in the United States.
The exhibition started t in 2008 in the REM-Museum at Mannheim/Germany, then Bolzano/Italy, Kassel//Germany, finally from 2010 to January 2018 in several cities in the United States. The exhibition now is in Prague, later in Budapest.
More information about the exhibition “Mummies of the world”.