I’ll be up front and honest, when I told friends where I was going they were terribly aghast. I was going to a church (really, it’s a chapel) filled with bones. Sometimes, I tell myself, there is beauty in something macabre and I wonder if I would find it so in this church.
Let me give you a little history of how all this came to be. As we learned yesterday in the post of Kutna Hora, this area became wealthy during the 1300’s because of the silver mines that was used to make the coinage in Europe. This area was a favorite of several kings of Bohemia and because it was the city competed with Prague as a cultural and economic center till about the 16th century when the Hapsburgs took over the region and the city became to fall apart. Due to flooding the mines were abandoned, the Hussite Wars raged through the area and the Black Plague took many lives. With all these events there were many dead bodies they needed to be buried.
In 1278 Henry, the abbot of the Cistercian monastery in Sedlec was sent to the Holy Land by King Otaker II of Bohemia on a diplomatic mission. On his return Henry took with him a handful of earth from Golgotha which he sprinkled over the cemetery of the Sedlec monastery. Word spread about what he did and the cemetery became famous throughout Central Europe. Many wealthy people desired to be buried here because of the connection to Jesus. The church was built on a cemetery many bodies were dug up in order to build
In 1278, Henry, the abbot of the Cistercian monastery in Sedlec, was sent to the Holy Land by King Otaker II of Bohemia. Henry took with him a handful of earth from Golgotha which he sprinkled over the cemetery of the Sedlec monastery. Word spread about what he did and the cemetery became famous throughout Central Europe. Many wealthy people desired to be buried here because of the connection to Jesus.
Around 1400 one of the abbots had the All -Saints church built in the Gothic style in the middle of the cemetery. Underneath it a chapel was built and it was for the bones from the graves that were dug up to build the church. Legend has it that in 1511 a half-blind priest was tasked with stacking all those bones, allegedly of 40,000 people, in the basement Ossuary.
In the late 18th century, the Schwarzenberg family hired Frantisek Rint, a woodcarver, to put the bone heaps into some type of order. In each of the four corners of the Ossuary there are large numbers of bones are stacked in pyramid shaped towers.
The left side of the nave is the coat of arms of the Schwarzenberg family made up entirely of human bones. It is interesting to note that in the lower right hand corner of the coat of arms is a crow eating the eyeball of the skull.
The large chandelier is supposedly made of every bone in the human body.
If you visit here, look for the signature of Frantisek Rint written entirely of bones.
There is a small charge to go down into the basement of the Ossuary where the bones are. When you have seen all that you can see, walk around the cemetery. After we were finished our driver picked us up and back to Prague we traveled, a little less talkative than we were heading out to Kutna Hora.
If you decide to go there by train you’ll need to go to the main train station in Prague and catch one of the trains leaving every two hours in the morning and afternoon for Kutna Hora mestro as that ticket will include the local train ticket. At 3:00 PM they leave every hour. You’ll arrive at the main train station in Kutna Hora but it is not within walking distance from the city center so you’ll need to transfer to a local train which leaves about 5 minutes after the train from Prague arrives. If you should miss the connecting train, there is also a local bus (no 1 and no. 7) that will take you into town where you can walk to St. Barbara’s Church. Another option is to take the private 8-passenger minivan (Tourist Bus) which runs between the Kutná Hora train station, Sedlec Ossuary and Church of St. Barbara in town. You can always see if one is waiting at the station when you arrive. It leaves as soon as at least three people get on. Check what the price is and you may find that it meets your needs. If you are going to the Ossuary first both the local train and bus (and the minivan) pass through the Sedlec suburb, so you can get off there (1st stop by train, 2nd stop by bus) and visit the Ossuary. There is also a direct bus leaves the Praha-Háje bus stop (metro line C, station Háje) every hour throughout the day and the trip takes 1 hour 40 minutes.
Here is a video that you might be interested in showing the Ossuary and bone church.
A few more pictures from the bone church