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Sedlec Ossuary

By Thursday, October 30, 2014 ,

Sedlec Ossuary is also known as All Saints Church in Kutna Hora and "that bone church near Prague". Located in a suburb of Kutna Hora about an hours train ride from Prague, the ossuary often pops up in lists and slide shows on unusual churches, creepy destinations thing to see in the Czech Republic. 



First impressions of it were that was very small. I had imagined it as some grand, Gothic cathedral with spiky bits and flying buttresses and moody organ music. There was a small cemetery around it, with both old a new grave markers. Rather than being looked after by a grim and scowling warden, the two ladies working inside were incredibly cheerful.


As soon as you go in, you're greeted by grinning skulls and boney decor. It has a bit of an amateur haunted house feel to it, except these bones aren't made of plastic and plaster.


The Schwarzenberg Coat of Arms, the family who once owned the land the ossuary is located on:



As soon as you go in, you're greeted by grinning skulls and boney decor. It has a bit of an amateur haunted house feel to it, except these bones aren't made of plastic and plaster.


The message behind it is supposed to be that in death we are all equals, and that the femur of a lord might find itself next to the jaw bone of a pauper.


I wrote a  little more in an earlier post on the whole day trip, but a Czech king sent a priest to Jerusalem around 1278. He returned with soil from Golgotha (also called Calvary, where according to the Christian Gospels is where Jesus was crucified), which he spread over the cemetery, making it Holy Land. After that, people from all over Europe wanted to be buried there and it filled up quickly.


The Plague saw more burials in a short period of time and more came after the Hussite wars. The wars  also caused the destruction of the cathedral, monastery and cemetery Church. During the rebuilding, the land for the cemetery reduced, and the bone left outside of the graveyard were dug up and moved inside the ossuary.


At the end of the 15th Century, according to legend, a half blind monk's sight returned to him after he created the bone and skull pyramids in the ossuary today. The macabre decor seems to have expanded through the following years, but it was Jan Blažej Santini-Aichel who really embraced the aesthetic in the early 18th Century and designed the chandeliers, garlands and added the cherubs.


 A wood carver named František Rint finished ordering the remainin bones in the 1870, and left his signature on the wall. In bones, of course.


Some parts are macabrely humorous, like something by Tim Burton. The original coat of arms has a raven pecking at the head of a Turk with an distinct hair-do, and I'm not sure the iconography makes the jump into bone well. 

Wasn't this guy in the Corpse Bride?
Surprisingly, once you get past the creepiness of it all, the ossuary is quite peaceful. Most of it is slightly underground so there's no sounds of traffic or kids playing. The walk from the train station to the ossuary is down a road with many tourist cafes and restaurants, and although the weather was a bit questionable and grey at times, it was overall cheery. 

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14 comments

  1. Wow. That looks really interesting - and really creepy! I'd never heard of that place before. It's interesting how the bones are used as decorations.

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  2. Ooooh, thanks for giving me something to add to my bucket list :)

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  3. That is certainly interesting, although I can't help but wonder if people agreed to have their bones displayed in this fashion. I can't help but think that each skull used to belong to someone's mother, father or child. Kind of like the mummies you see at the Museum. They thought they were going to have a nice quiet afterlife and here they are being dragged around and put on display for thousands of people! Not quite what they signed up for! #SITSSharefest

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    1. You're absolutely right, it can be really easy to forget that these are the remains of real people, especially when they're arranged in chandeliers and things. I think temporary burials and ossuaries weren't super unusual, but no one really expects to have their bones (or those of their loved ones) treated like building blocks! I tried thinking of what it would be like to have my bones put on display like that, and I've never really liked the idea of being buried and forgotten (it just seems so lonely, I know at that point I won't actually care, but...). The ladies working there were just so happy and cheerful that I thought hey, maybe it wouldn't be so bad to hang out with them for the rest of eternity.

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  4. Wow, I had never heard of this cathedral. It sounds totally unique...but I'm not entirely sure I'd actually want to visit!

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  5. What a strange but interesting place! Great pics -- and perfect for Halloween. :-)

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  6. Holy crap! That is pretty cool! Did it have a weird vibe feel to it? If not you'd think it would with all those bones. Happy Saturday!

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  7. Claire, this is so funny. I was having a discussion with other travel bloggers this week about the creepiest place I ever visited and I said the Sedlec Ossuary. Most of them had never heard of the place, but when I showed them pictures and told them about it, they were definitely intrigued. Great post, and pictures. I went there many years ago, and can't wait to take my kids.

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  8. Wow, that bed of skulls is mighty creepy. You are brave! I don't think I would have lasted long in there. Lol

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  9. Super creepy, but I still want to go check it out. I think seeing it in person is completely different than in pictures. It must feel kinda eerie inside no?

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  10. I can't decide if I think this is creepy beyond belief or a wonderful idea (Love the equality bit).

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  11. So creepy! But it is very interesting too. Cool post!

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  12. Still on my bucket list to see. My husband and I went into Czech but ran out of time before we could make it over to the church. Nice post! Beth, WiseMommies. PS. Asked before where in Germany you live but I see now Hamburg!

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