You should visit the church made up of B O N E S ! A friend of mine told this to me before I head to Czech Republic on a 5-month backpacking trip (spent only 3 months in Europe—thanks to my visa limit ^^).
While touring around the beautiful city of Prague, I remember this suggestion from my friend. Good thing, our walking tour company (Sandemans’ New Europe Tours) is offering a guided tour around the city of Kutna Hora where the Sedlec Ossuary, aka The Bone Church is located.
An ossuary is a place, can be a building, a box or even a well (insert Sadako reference here), that serves as a final resting place of human skeletal remains.
I am not sure if we have this concept in the Philippines. I grew up knowing that after you bury a person, that is his/her (earthly) body’s final resting place.
I have seen hanging coffins and read about mummified body in a banga (jar), but nothing about collecting skeletal remains and place them all together. I can be wrong though. You see, while writing this blog, I didn’t really think of tackling this area, so, my research was not that extensive, haha. So if you know anything like this happening in the Philippines, please share it to us at the comment section below.
THE TRIP TO KUTNA HORA
Ok, let’s go back to our trip. From my hostel (Equity Point Hostel), I walk to the Old Town Square which is the meeting point for the tour. It is the same meeting place as all Sandemans tour. It is conveniently located at the center of Prague. So aside from joining the tour, you’ll get a little bit of sight seeing while you wait for your departure.
Because it is located outside Prague, in a city called Kutna Hora, we rode a bus and travelled around an hour and a half from Prague. It was nice to see some people I met from the walking tour the day before (I haven’t blogged this yet, but will surely make one soon).
The travel didn’t seem to be that long as we were all discussing about our experiences during our previous trips. This is the beauty of traveling solo, you’ll get to meet people who are doing the same thing and ended up as travel buddies (yheap we are still friends until now).
We arrived at Kutna Hora around 11:30 am, and first in our itinerary is the visit to the Sedlec Ossuary. The Kutna Hora tour by Sandemans, is a walking tour around the city, and the ossuary is just part of it. But for this blog, I will only focus on this.
Standing at the cemetery in Sedlec, we were introduced to the Cemetery Church of All Saints. From the outside, it looks like an ordinary Baroque inspired church. Although having a graveyard on its backyard gave me a little bit of creeps already, but, for a small town (suburbs) in Europe, this kind of sight is, I am assuming very normal. I’ve seen a similar set-up when I was roaming Iceland, Vienna and parts of Italy.
The famous Ossuary is located at the lower level of the church. Serving as a small chapel connected to the church cemetery.
It was already evident that most of the people (mainly tourists) come here to visit crypt and stare at the macabre inspired interior decoration, than to attend a mass. You will be welcomed in front of the chapel, posters of entrance fees and the tourists’ rules and regulations (mainly keep quiet and no flash when taking a photo). Also, a souvenir shop at the entrance is a dead (no pun intended) giveaway.
The sight of around 40,000 human skeletal remains artistically decorated the chapel is an overwhelming view. At one point, you have to ask yourself if displaying them in such manner is being disrespectful.
HISTORY OF THE BONE CHURCH
The story behind this place started when the Abbot of the Sedlec Monastery was sent to the Holy Land by King Otakar II of Bohemia. He returned with a handful of land he got from Golgotha (the burial site of the Lord Jesus Christ). He then scattered this piece of earth to the ground of the Sedlec cemetery, making it at that time the most sought after burial place in the whole of Bohemia and parts of Central Europe.
With an overwhelming number of people being buried in the said cemetery, Europe, during the 14th century, got hit with the Black Death (plague) and the Hussite Wars (Bohemian War) — ok too much terms, I am linking wikepedia links on both events—- where thousands more were buried at the cemetery.
When the new (at the time) Church of the All Saints was built, the unearthed skeletal remains where the church got erected where stacked together in an ossuary at the lower level chapel of the church, which is now known as the Sedlec Ossuary.
How did it turn out to look like what it is now? The macabre style of decoration was brought about when a local woodcarver, Frantisek Rint was employed to artistically arrange the overwhelming number of bones inside the chapel. After carefully bleaching all the bones (imagine, handling them one by one), he started creating the elements that we can now see inside the chapel.
A central chandelier, a family crest and even a candleholder made of bones are just some of the things you can see inside. There are also 6 huge bone pyramids where according to our guide, not glued together. With all the intricate bone elements inside the chapel, one of the things that really got my attention was Frantisek Rint’s signature on the wall —-yheap, MADE WITH BONES (this gave me a bit of a Hannibal feeling).
This place is really nothing that I have seen before, no wonder, people who visited Prague, always add this as one of their day trips (whether planned or last minute).
HOW TO GET THERE?
If you are doing a day trip, I would highly suggest to get a tour from a travel agent in Prague. As mentioned, I took Sandeman’s New Europe tour, and it cost me 30 euros which covers the bus and a tour around Kutna Hora (also a lunch stop, but payment for lunch is not included).
If you don’t want to get a tour arranged, and thought of going as a legit backpacker, the best way is to take a train. There is a regular train traveling from Prague to Kutna Hora main station, which is roughly 10 minutes walk to the Sedlec Ossuary.
Have you been to a similar place like this? What is the creepiest place you’ve ever been? Share it to us at the comments below.0