Perhaps one of the most unusual places you will visit in the Czech Republic, the Sedlec Chapel in Kutna Hora is decorated with the bones of more than 40,000 human skeletons. What, you might ask, isn't that rather macabre? Actually, it's not, or at least that's not the impression my wife and I left with [...]
Perhaps one of the most unusual places you will visit in the Czech Republic, the Sedlec Chapel in Kutna Hora is decorated with the bones of more than 40,000 human skeletons.
What, you might ask, isn't that rather macabre?
Actually, it's not, or at least that's not the impression my wife and I left with when we visited this ossuary, also known as the Bone Chapel, in September. Sedlec was our last stop on a tour of several chapels/cathedrals in the town of Kutna Hora, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The bones that the chapel/ossuary amassed were arranged by a woodcarver, Frantisek Rint, in 1870. The result is quite impressive and tastefully done. The huge chandelier of bones could be considered the woodcarver's masterpiece (see pictures at https://sedlecossuary.com/sedlec-ossuary-pictures/.)
The bones and their arrangement need little commentary, so you will little signage found here. However, one small bit of signage reminds us that death is the great equalizer of us all. Indeed, it was very easy to envision my own skull placed there among the 40,000, yet just one more individual who has met the fate that awaits us all.
The reason that so many bones ended up at the Sedlec Chapel dates to 1278 when the King of Bohemia sent the abbot of Sedlec Cistercian Monastery to Jerusalem, and he came back with a jar of 'holy soil' from Golgotha. After this, the cemetery had to be expanded, since so many people wanted to be buried there. In the 15th Century, a Gothic church was built near the cemetery, and its basement used as an ossuary for storage of human skeletons until Frantisek Rint was appointed to arrange the bones artistically.
The creative result is a fascinating example of outside the box thinking (before such a term was even in vogue).
If you find yourself anywhere near Kutna Hora, the Bone Chapel is well worth a visit. For more information and current hours, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. There is a Gift Shop in case you would like to take home a souvenir skull (made of plaster, of course).