Ah... Kutna Hora... what a lovely place for a visit. So, that's exactly what I did when I traveled to Czechoslovakia to see the infamous Bone Church.
Not an easy place to find either, about forty-four miles east of Prague, twists and turns led me to a fairly normal looking Church. At least... from the outside.
But as I ducked through the front door, and smelled the dank air, I knew I was home. The entire interior was decorated with thousands, and I mean thousands, of human bones. It was like a serial killers playroom.
The enormous Chandelier was made from every bone in the human body. There was a bony coat of arms, a chalice and other ornaments and decor all made from human bones. But what really caught my eye were two enormous pyramids, piles of skulls, stacked to the high ceiliing. There must have been ten thousand skulls in each pile!
I wandered around for awhile, all alone in the creepy church, feeling a slilght chill, as I wondered who carving and boilied off all the flesh.
While reading the dusty brochure, the on the shriveled peasant woman handed me at entrance, my eyes glanced upon a paragraph explaining that most of the bones came courtesy of the bubonic plague. I wondered about the shelf life for that particular scourge as my eyes scanned for rats.
As I quickly left, I glanced back over my shoulder at the wrinkled Czech woman manning the front entrance, next to the postcards. I tried to imagine what it must be like when all the tourists had a left on their busses and she sat there... all alone...in the desolute church... with those thirty thousand empty eye sockets gazing down upon her.
Did they whisper to her on winter days? Or, was it just the wind?
As I walked past her I noticed she was reading the bible.
Click here to see a short Quicktime movie about the Ossuary in Sedle.
And click here for better pictures of the Bone Church (including a few I took)
Where you can also read more about...
The Ossuary in Sedlec - Kutna Hora
In the year of thy lord 1278 the Cistercian abbot Henry embarked on a pilgrim voyage to the Holy Land (Palestine).
While in Palestine abbot Henry visited the Golgotha and from there he brought back to Sedlec a jar full of earth. He referred to this as 'Holy Soil'.
When he got back he spread the earth over the Sedlec cemetery and thus the cemetery begun to be considered as a piece of sacred land.
The burial ground rapidly became one of the most popular in central Europe and people from all over the country and Europe came to Sedlec to get buried when they felt the strength of life diminishing. Many brought their dead relatives or friends to be buried in the holy soil of the Sedlec cemetery believing that the holyness of the ground was a sure way to guarantee the buried a place in heaven.
Many corpses and bones were accumulated this way and especially during the times of the plague (the black death) many who were about to die from the disease came themselves to be buried in Sedlec. By 1318 over 3,000 bodies were buried there and this gave rise to the creation of the ossuary.
The ossuary is located in the All Saints' Chapel built around 1400. The chapel is still surrounded by a functioning graveyard and if you take a careful look at the top of its towers you will see that that a "jolly roger", or a skull and crossbones, replace the usual Christian cross. The ossuary itself dates from 1511 when a half-blind monk was given the task to gather the bones from the abolished graves and putting them in the crypt to make place for new "customers". The task may seem somewhat macabre and unenviable but it served a practical purpose. Anyhow - now the material was in store and waiting for an idea and someone to realize that idea.
A more questionable task than the one of the half-blind monk was the one of the local woodcarver who as late as 1870 was hired to decorate the inside of the Chapel with the human material (an approximate of 40,000 sets of human bones) at his disposal. The name of the artist
was Frantisek Rindt and the employer was the Duke of Shwartzenberg. The coats of arms of the family Shwartzenberg was one of the creations evolved from the artists mind. Another one is the chandelier which contains every human bone in the body, several times over, of course.
However questionable the Ossuary - it is real. The bones are real. The feeling of death is real. But also the feeling of peace.
Most of the dead in the Ossuary died a "natural" i.e. non-violent death and the bones were removed from the ground to give more Christians the possibility to be buried on holy ground.I'd like to stress the fact that the church is not made of bones as so many seem to think! The interior is decorated with human bones but it's a "normal" church made of stone and bricks. I'd also like to point out that it's a normal Christian church with a Christ on the cross figure and all the rest. It's not some weird cult or Satanist Church.