Outside of Prague in a small town called Kutná Hora, you’ll find the Sedlec Ossuary, a creepy yet mesmerising church that is often overlooked by visitors. Whats so unusual about this church is that instead of the usual churchy interior, its’ decorated with bones from over 40,000 people.
Yes, you read that right – bones from over 40,000 people.
Why is there a church full of old bones you might ask? Well, I took the trip to Kutná Hora to find out.
Kutná Hora was a silver mining town in medieval times and was once the second largest city in the Czech Republic. Nowadays, the small city is comparatively drab compared to it’s larger neighbour Prague but is still home to a few outstanding works of historical architecture. In 1995 it was entered on the UNESCO World Heritage List for its historical town centre where the beautiful St. Barbara’s church and Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec are situated.
The Sedlec Ossuary (or the Church of Bones) dates back to the 13th century and gained popularity when the abbot of Sedlec monastery returned from a visit to Palestine with a pocketful of soil from the holy land. He sprinkled the sand around the cemetery at Sedlec and the direct association with holy land led the cemetery to be a very sought after burial site amongst the aristocracy in Central Europe. Due to the war in the 17th century, the number of burials outgrew the space available so the older remains were exhumed and stored inside the chapel.
Since then there have been many speculations as to why they started to decorate the chapel with the old bones. Urban myths such as partially blind monks who were entrusted with the care of the chapel began piling the bones into geometric shapes or that a monk went mad and started building things from the bones are entertaining to ponder on but it is still a bit of a mystery as to how they ended up in such decorative patterns.
In 1870, woodcarver František Rint was commissioned by landowners of the time to decorate the chapel with the bones and create a reminder that life isn’t permanent and that death is inescapable.
There are many different displays in the small, dark chapel. From a coat of arms, the candelabras and the impressive bone chandelier you almost forget these decorative features were once living breathing humans.
As eerie as the Sedlec Ossuary is, I couldn’t recommend it more. It’s a wonderfully weird work of art that will leave you pondering the lives of those, whose bones hang decoratively before you.
Address: Zámecká, 284 03 Kutná Hora, Czechia
Train’s from Prague’s main station Hlavní nádraží leave nearly every hour and the journey takes about an hour. I recommend getting your ticket for Kutná Hora hl.n. as it’s a shorter walk to the ossuary but there are several buses or taxis that will take you where you need to go.
The entrance fee to the bone church is 60Kč and they also have combo deals if you want to visit some of the other buildings in Kutná Hora.
While you’re in Kutná Hora, I also recommend a visit to St. Barbara’s Cathedral. The gothic bohemian style church is reminiscent of St. Vitus in Prague but it’s high ceilings and bright stained glass windows will leave you in awe.
For more of my Prague adventures, click here!