I vaguely remember hearing of the Sedlec Ossuary in the past, but basically, all that I knew was that there was a church somewhere with a bunch of bones in it (my parents probably should have given me the middle name “Britannica”).
Its located in the town of Kutnà Hora, just a little east of Prague, so I made the quick trip over there.
Kutnà Hora started when the Sedlec Monastery (the first Cistercian Monastery in Bohemia) was constructed. There was a massive deposit of silver underneath the city, which lead to rapid development. And this wealth lead to Kutnà Hora being a fairly important and influential city in Bohemia.
The three places I visited here were St. Barbara’s Church, Church of the Assumption of Our Lady and Saint John the Baptist (the Sedlec Monastery…maybe it was Cistercian tradition to give ridiculously long names?), and the Sedlec Ossuary.
St. Barbara’s Church (she was the patron saint of miners…makes sense for a town built on a silver mine) was surprisingly impressive, especially considering it isn’t located in a major city of today.
Construction started in in 1388, but it wasn’t actually completed until 1905, and it was only about half the size of the original plans. The town’s silver mine production dropped off over the years, and the lack of income caused the change in plans. It’s a shame they had to settle for this paltry little thing…
The Sedlec Monastery is well known as an example of Baroque Gothic style. Originally built in the 1300s (on top of the original church from 1142), it was the first church in Bohemia that was modeled after the French Gothic Cathedrals. In 1421, it was burned down by the Hussites, and left for over 200 years. In the 1700s, reconstruction was completed in the current Baroque Gothic style.
Check out this statue of Mary…look close and you can see, she’s bald. Apparently they had various wigs that they’d put on the statue, depending on what time of year it was. And for once, I’m not being sarcastic…I’m just repeating what I was told. If you don’t believe me, take it up with the church.
OK, OK…enough with the filler…here’s the real reason I came to Kutnà Hora. The Sedlec Ossuary…
The story started in 1278 when the abbot of the Sedlec Monastery was sent to the Holy Land, and returned with a bit of dirt from Golgotha, which is supposedly where Jesus was crucified. The dirt was sprinkled over the cemetery, which made it a very desirable burial site for people across Europe.
In the 15th Century, the ossuary was built in an effort to provide more room for burials. The remains of 40,000 (some estimate as high as 70,000) people were exhumed and stored in the ossuary. In 1870, František Rint was given the task of organizing the bones, and the result is what you still find there today.
The spiderwebs on these skulls sure didn’t make them any less creepy.
Rint even signed his name in bones…
They had a number of skulls of people injured or killed during the attack by the Hussites in 1421. They were categorized by whether they were killed (serious damage to the skull) or injured (damage to skull, but evidence that some amount of healing took place afterwards.
A couple of the headstone that are still around the ossuary…quite a few were unkempt, but these ones really stuck out.