Kutna Hora

Would You Ever Dare Enter the Blood-Curdling Sedlec Ossuary?

Whenever one mentions the Czech Republic, most would immediately think of the spectacular city of Prague, which attracts millions of tourists annually. As it turns out, just 37 mi (60 km) from the capital sits a small and much less known town - the Gothic gem of Kutná Hora.

In immediate proximity to Kutná Hora lies one of the most remarkable chapels, one that has no comparison anywhere in the world. Case in point is the ossuary in Sedlec, which appears quite unseemly at first glance, yet as soon as you cross the threshold you will find that it's not something that's seen often.

The interior of the chapel is comprised of the bones of 40 000 people. That's right - the whole interior, from the chandeliers to the coat-of-arms and the altar are all built from real human bones.

Sedlec Ossuary

The small chapel has an incredibly rich history. It was built back in 1142 as a Cistercian monastery. In 1278, King Otakar II sent the abbot of the monastery to the Holy Land. From Jerusalem, he returned with earth taken from Golgotha and sprinkled it over the cemetery, surrounding the monastery. Ever since then, it became a popular place to bury the deceased.

The wealthy from all corners of Europe found it desirable to have their final resting place be the cemetery containing a small part of the Holy Land. The chapel's convent was forced to find a way to resolve the problem with the flood of bodies coming in, since the cemetery was not originally designed to accommodate so many.

So in 1511, they made the decision to build an actual ossuary. The body of the recently decreased was buried in a temporary grave and was years later exhumed to be placed in the ossuary. A half-blind monk was made to carry out the task of digging up the bones. And so the convent freed space for new bodies.

As a result of the Black Death and wars in the region, thousands of people lost their lives, making it no longer possible to fit all of the dead in the graves. Their remains were stored in a secure place, which would later become known as the Sedlec Ossuary.

Kutna Hora Ossuary

In 1870, the local woodcarver František Rint came up with an unusual solution - to sort out the heaps of thousands of bones. It took him years to accomplish this but he went even further. The woodcarver created a new interior from the bones, using the chapel's already established brick and stone construction.

Rint bleached the bones, built an altar, coat-of-arms and even chandeliers, constructed entirely from bones. The central chandelier is the most impressive part of the chapel's interior, for it contains pieces of every bone in the human body.

Nowadays, the humble chapel is among the most popular destinations in the Czech Republic. Even today there is a moat around the chapel and workers continue to dig up bones found immediately around its walls.

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