Finding 365 Ways to Die

The interiors of Sandomierz cathedral are suitably pious, but focus on the details beyond the initial ostentation and you'll discover a macabre side.

The paintings on the walls of the cathedral are by 18th-century artist Karol de Prevot (1708−37), who was apparently not a cheery guy. The four paintings on the back wall under the organ depict historic scenes such as the 1656 destruction of Sandomierz Castle by the Swedes. But it's the 12 paintings on the side walls that plunge into the dark side.

The series, Martyrologium Romanum, depicts the martyrdom of the Dominican Fathers and other people of Sandomierz at the hands of the Tatars between 1259 and 1260. The unfortunate subjects are being sawn, burned, hanged, whipped, quartered, sliced, diced and otherwise discourteously treated.

The 12 paintings are supposed to symbolise the 12 months of the year; next to each image of torture a number represents the day of the month. Legend has it that if you find the day and month on which you were born, you’ll discover how you’re going to die.

On a side note, Sandomierz cathedral is also notorious for other images within the Martyrologium Romanum series. There are portrayals that many ascribe to the 'blood libel' myth of Jews killing Catholic children for their blood. Covered by a red cloth since 2006, their location is currently obscured by a major structural refurbishment project.