Ossuary at Sedlec in Kutná Hora | Keeping Up With the Bones-es

Ok, it was time to venture out of Prague, one of the most perfect cities I’ve ever seen. Prague is gorgeous in its proper lines and uptight architecture. And the natives work hard to keep it clean and everything running smoothly.

View from Charles Bridge Tower in Prague

View of the orderly buildings and Vltava River, from the Charles Bridge.

Seriously, if you have a chance to stop in Prague, make sure you do so. The impressive Charles Bridge itself will be worth the trip.

Anyway…

We were in the Czech Republic belatedly celebrating my birthday and the boyfriend and I decided it was time for a little tour into the Bohemian countryside. I was dying to see the Bone Church (pun half-heartedly intended)…and since this happens to be Halloween weekend, I thought it’d be the perfect time to tell you about the bone collection.

The ossuary is located in Sedlec, a small town in the Kutná Hora district about an hour’s drive east of Prague, at a rather tiny Roman Catholic church called the Church of All Saints. To get a look at the bones, you’ll have to descend a flight of stairs into the lower chapel.

Don’t be afraid. Once you get down there, you will be positively amazed.

Why? Because there are bones EVERYWHERE. Piled up in pyramids, dangling from light fixtures…actually, they ARE the light fixtures. They’re used to hold up candles, decorate the altar and adorn the walls.

And why is there such a massive collection of skulls, femurs and tibias all in one place? Because the Bohemians and many of their European neighbors decided little, old Sedlec is a holy place for burial.

Sedlec Church of All Saints' Towers of Bones

There were four of these pyramidical constructions at the Sedlec ossuary.

Crusading Times

It all started with a local abbot who was sent to Palestine in the 13th century. He brought back some soil from the Holy Land – Golgotha, actually – which he devoutly sprinkled around the abbey cemetery. Apparently European Christians thought this was just great, and so they all wanted to be buried in this particular cemetery, covered in holy dirt, if possible.

Shouldn’t be a problem, should it? Well, enter stage left, the Black Death — and all of a sudden it became a huge problem, as the monastery’s cemetery quickly ran out of burial space. And so the good brothers buried bodies wherever they could.

Which still didn’t stop the dying from wanting to be buried there. No one knows exactly how many skeletons rest in the Church of all Saints, but the current estimate is approximately 40,000.

The Bone Church in Sedlec sports macabre decorations.

Garlands of skulls stream throughout the chapel.

Rumor has it that the initial church was built in the 15th century, and that a semi-blind monk was assigned the task of stacking the bones in an orderly fashion. But it wasn’t until the 19th century when someone decided to get creative with the pieces.

If you’d like to read more about the ossuary at Sedlec in Kutna Hora, go here: http://www.kostnice.cz/. Choose your language: Czech, English or German?

Definitely visit the site before you get to Sedlec though. We missed the fact that the bone-arranging artist (a wood carver named František Rint) signed his work – in bones of course – on one of the chapel walls.

Bone Chandelier at Sedlec Ossuary in Czech Republic.

I would expect a chandelier like this at Vlad the Impaler’s castle…not in a small church in the Czech countryside.

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