Sedlec Ossuary – Church of Bones

The well-known church in Czech Republic is the ‘Ossuary’ or the most correct full name is ‘Kostnice’ in the small town of Kutná Hora. In the 13th century, Jindrich, the abbot returned from a trip to the Palestine to the Sedlec monastery with a pocket of soil in which he sprinkled across the cemetery of the Chapel of All Saints.

The soil which is known to have an association with the holy land leads to the cemetery becoming a sought after location to be buried among the aristocracy across Central Europe. During this time there had been 30 years of war in the 17th century and the number of burials outgrew the space available. This led to older remains being exhumed and collected and being stored in the main chapel. The chapel itself now contains the bones of over 40,000 people.

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The chapel floors are partially below the ground and its square floor plan is divided into sections so in each corner there’s a huge pile of skulls and bones which is around 3-4 meters squared. This leaves a cross type floor area with a stairway leading up to the the street. In the centre is a bone chandelier which is the highlight of the bone church as it is known to contains at least one of each bone of the human body.

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The bone decorations in the Kutna Hora ossuary is known to be part of an urban myth that a monk went mad and starting making things from bones, and that the partially sighted monks had entrusted the care of the chapel and were overwhelmed with so many bones that they ended up stacking the bones in geometric shapes.

The decorations that are visible today were created by a well known wood carver František Rint, who in 1870 was commissioned by the Schwarzenberg family who were the land owners at the time, to decorate the chapel as a reminder of the impermanence of human life and that death was inescapable.

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As well as the bone chandelier there are bones and skulls hanging from corner to corner of the ceiling and skull candelabras, chalices that stand within alcoves along with a display cases showing skulls and bones which had huge inflictions by medieval weapons. Skulls with terrible wounds that will make you shiver at what might have happened to some these victims during the 17th century war.

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The land owners the Schwarzenberg family also had their own coat of arms which is depicting of a crow picking the eye from an invading soldier.

Visiting the eerie church of bones is highly recommended and is open 7 days a week apart from 24th and 25th of December. Cameras are allowed but you have to pay a few Euros extra.