Johanna Juliane Pforte and Robert Christian von Hake both died over 250 years ago and were laid to rest underneath the village church of Nedlitz, near Magdeburg in Saxony Anhalt.
Conditions in the crypt, perfectly dry with a constant breeze, stopped them decomposing, resulting instead in seven mummified corpses. Still dressed in their burial outfits, Pforte aged 70, and von Hake aged 50, are the best specimens and experts have been working to restore them since 2010.
From April 27th, they will go on display in the St. Nikolaus church. The other five will remain in their coffins.
Expert restorer Jens Klocke from nearby Hildesheim has been leading the project and is particularly excited about the conditions in the crypt, which he compared to those in the Tomb of the Emperors in Palermo cathedral, Italy – famously dry and full of naturally preserved mummies.
Klocke has been working on the mummies for months while analysing the crypt, the constant draught and the church – helped by €45,000 in funding from church-goers donations, the university of Otto von Guericke in Magdeburg and the IDK, the Saxon and Lower Saxon institute for conservation.
There has been a little criticism though, with locals calling the exhibition gimmicky and complaining that preserving and moving the mummies was disturbing the dead.
But Eberhard Rode, church-goer and former board member has retorted to such complaints, saying that the mummies “have a significance for the region's modern history.” They are symbols of the past, and the village's burial culture in the 18th century, he added.