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The tomb of Prussian Baron von Fahrenheid family, Rapa, Poland

Rapa Pyramid and the Mummified Family of Poland


The Rapa Pyramid is a monument located in Rapa, a village in the north of Poland, just a short distance away from Russia’s Kaliningrad Oblast. This pyramid was built during the 19 th century and served as the mausoleum of the von Fahrenheid (spelled also as von Fahrenheit) family. The Rapa Pyramid was severely damaged during the Second World War when the Soviet army advanced through the area. The mausoleum was abandoned during the Communist era, but was rebuilt over time by locals. The Rapa Pyramid was designated as a historic landmark by the Polish government in 2008.

Why was the Rapa Pyramid built?

The man behind the construction of the Rapa Pyramid was an official and nobleman of Imperial Eastern Prussia by the name of Friedrich Wilhelm von Fahrenheid (some sources state that this official’s name was Friedrich Heinrich). von Fahrenheid is reputed to have been an avid art collector, as well as a globetrotter. During this time, the Western world was gripped by Egyptomania, and von Fahrenheid apparently became obsessed with ancient Egyptian culture, in particular the way the Egyptian perception of the afterlife, and the rituals surrounding death.

Poland’s Pyramid in Rapa. (Deviantart)

Poland’s Pyramid in Rapa. (Deviantart)

It is not known today how far von Fahrenheid dabbled in ancient Egyptian rituals / ‘magic’ when he was alive, but the Rapa Pyramid is certainly a manifestation of his obsession. He hired Bertel Thorvaldsen, a renowned Danish sculptor during that time, to build a family mausoleum for him. This monument was completed in 1811, and was a miniature pyramid on top of a square base. It may be pointed out that the internal angle of the walls is 51°52’, which is exactly the same as that of the famous Egyptian pyramids in Giza. It is quite clear that von Fahrenheid knew what he wanted.

The Egyptian Revival

It may be remarked that the construction of pyramids as mausoleums in the West was not an entirely unusual phenomenon during the 19 th century. During the early part of this century, ‘Egyptian Revival’ was a popular architectural style that incorporated Egyptian elements in architecture. This was not limited to the buildings meant for the living, but also those for the dead. In the United States, for instance, there are many pyramid tombs / mausoleums in cemeteries across the country, most of which are recorded to have been built between 1865 and 1923. Some of these pyramid tombs have rather bizarre stories attached to them, though none perhaps as bizarre as that of the Rapa Pyramid.

Van Ness and Parsons Pyramid Mausoleum, Green Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn. (CC BY 4.0)

Van Ness and Parsons Pyramid Mausoleum, Green Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn. (CC BY 4.0)

A Family Mummified

It seemed that von Fahrenheid was not content with merely having a pyramid-shaped mausoleum. He went one step further than most owners of pyramid tombs by having his dead family members mummified before placing them in the mausoleum. Some sources state that the bodies were naturally mummified. In any case, the first member of the von Fahrenheid family to be interred in the Rapa Pyramid was Ninette, von Fahrenheid’s three year old daughter / granddaughter. In the decades that followed, more family members were interred, and von Fahrenheid himself was placed in his mausoleum in 1849.

Family burials inside the Rapa Pyramid. (Public Domain)

Family burials inside the Rapa Pyramid. (Public Domain)

Raiders of the Rapa Pyramid

During the Second World War, the Soviet Army advanced through this area, and decided to ransack the Rapa Pyramid, hoping to find treasure within. They entered the mausoleum after blasting open the walls but the soldiers found no treasure, and proceeded to desecrate the corpses. They smashed the coffins, tore the clothes of the dead bodies, and decapitated the corpses. Although the remains were exposed to the elements, it seems that they did not decompose. Some have attributed this to the powerful energy fields that are caused by the intersection in that area of three ley lines, and amplified by the pyramid-shape of the mausoleum.

The locals rebuilt the Rapa Pyramid over time, and visitors came to look not only at the structure, but also at the headless mummies, as the locals had left them on display. In 2008, the Rapa Pyramid was designated as an historic monument. In order to prevent further destruction, the Polish government had the von Fahrenhied mummies re-interred in new coffins, sealed the entrance, and barred the windows.

Kept on Ice?

Finally, it may be remarked that the Rapa Pyramid has been the subject of some archaeological investigation. One of these, for instance, involves the 3D documentation of the structure by the 3D Scan Lab at the Institute of Archaeology, Humanities Digital Lab at the University of Warsaw. In another study, scientists from the same university discovered two anomalies under the structure whilst conducting a survey of the pyramid with ground-penetrating radar. The presence of a previously unknown underground chamber has led to the speculation that the Rapa Pyramid was not the first structure to be built on the site, and that an icehouse may have stood there prior to the pyramid’s construction.

Top image: The tomb of Prussian Baron von Fahrenheid family, Rapa, Poland. Source: Deviantart

By Wu Mingren


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Now I want a pyramid.

dhwty's picture


Wu Mingren (‘Dhwty’) has a Bachelor of Arts in Ancient History and Archaeology. Although his primary interest is in the ancient civilizations of the Near East, he is also interested in other geographical regions, as well as other time periods.... Read More

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