Bones and Skeletons in the Czech Republic

20 Oct


Next week I have a guest, Shelia Deeth, who has kindly agreed to be my guest, please see Events. So this week I want to give you all an early Halloween treat. Kutna Hora is one of my favourite places in the CR, and kostnice Sedlec or the Sedlec Ossuary is one of the most interesting churches in the CR, in my opinion anyway. Why? Read on..:)
The Ossuary is a small Roman Catholic church located in the suburb of Kutna Hora called Sedlec. (Kunta Hora is about 75km from Prague.) The church is ‘decorated’ with the skeletons of past parishioners, artistically arranged around the interior to form different shapes. It is estimated to contain the bones of between 40, 000 and 70, 000 people. Having seen the size of church myself, I found this number unbelievable but there are loads of bones everywhere! It is said to be the most visited tourist attraction in the Czech Republic even if a little off the beaten track.
I first came across mention of this church in a magazine in South Africa and was fascinated. At this stage I didn’t know I would be living in Czech. But as you can imagine it was on my list of things to do when I arrived. I have visited it more than once. Am sure as you have been reading, you know there has to be story behind it.

Around 1400, mass graves were unearthed during the construction of a Gothic church. The church had an upper and lower level to be used to accommodate the exhumed bones of past parishioners. The task given to a monk in about 1512/1513.
In 1870, a woodcarver, was employed by the Schwarzenberg family, Czech aristocracy, to put the piles of bones into some type of order. The result:
four very big bell shaped piles of bones are in all four corners of the chapel, a huge chandelier hangs in the nave of the chapel and is said to contain at least one bone of every bone in the human body, a large coat of arms of the Schwarzenberg family and various other skulls and bones.
I am not sure if it was a good idea or not but, make no bones about it, it certainly is different and an interesting stop if you decide to visit Prague. I hope you find the photos interesting. I would love you to comment and hear what you think.
Don’t forget next week Shelia Deeth. Happy Halloween.

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5 Responses to “Bones and Skeletons in the Czech Republic”

  1. Lady Deidre October 20, 2011 at 9:49 pm #

    Interesting post and very creepy. 🙂

    • annepetzer October 21, 2011 at 6:49 am #

      Thanks Deidre-yes guess it is a bit creepy 🙂

  2. Charlotte Holley October 21, 2011 at 12:27 am #

    Yes, I have read about this church, too. Obviously people in the 1500s weren’t as squeamish about human skeletons as we are today, but even so it’s hard to believe they would decorate a Christian church with them. In the spirit of Halloween, I would think it would be more something done in the deep, dark recesses of a Satanic meeting place. Then again, maybe making them part of a church put their spirits to rest at last.

    • annepetzer October 21, 2011 at 6:53 am #

      Thanks for the post Charlotte. I was originally interested because I honestly didn’t think it was real. Maybe in some way the church was trying to show respect to their parishioners by keeping the skeletons (?). Prague is filled with strange tales too. However, this is not the main reason Kutna Hora is one of favorite places-it really is a beautiful city with one of the oldest Cathedrals, Santa Barbara.

      • Charlotte Holley October 22, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

        Could be they were honoring those people who were (probably) killed in battle and just shoved into a mass grave. Their spirits can’t have been at rest being buried that way. Maybe by including them as part of the Church, they honored them, gave them “absolution” and freed their spirits to go on into their rewards.

        We’ll never know exactly why they chose to do it, but I’m sure it’s a most intriguing place to visit!

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