Behind the 12th-century St. Micheal’s Chapel small cemetery is the Hallstatt Beinhaus (Bonehouse). A small building, it is tightly stacked with over 1,200 skulls. In the 1700s, the church began digging up corpses to make way for the newly dead. The graveyard is too small and can hold only a limited number of graves. Therefore, to make room for newly deceased, the bodies of long dead are exhumed and their skulls are stored in the Bone House. Their graves are then available for new burials.
Once the skeletons were exhumed and properly bleached in the sun, the family members would stack the bones next to their nearest kin. In 1720, a tradition began of painting the skulls with symbolic decorations (laurels for valor, roses for love, etc), as well as dates of birth and death so that the dead would be remembered, even if they no longer had a grave.