Make no bones about it, Sedlec Ossuary is an eerie and unusual place. From the outside it might look like any other unassuming church or chapel but it’s on the inside where things start to get weird. People with fears or phobias founded around the human anatomy are best warned to stay away!
Sedlec Ossuary lies some 70 kilometres from Prague. It can be reached by taking a train from Prague station which can take upwards of an hour to arrive at its destination. Once you stop at Kutná Hora station, you are required to walk to the ossuary itself unless you are able to hail a taxi to take you instead. Entry to the ossuary costs 90 Koronas which is roughly $3.50 or about £2.40.
Sedlec Ossuary has a long history, beginning in the 13th century when the abbot of the time brought back earth from the Grave of the Lord in Jerusalem. He scattered this holy soil across the ground of the abbey and soon news of his deed spread across the country and beyond. This consecration of the grounds made the ossuary a highly desirable place for people to bury their dearly departed. Soon over 30,000 bodies were buried around the building and space simply ran out. Older bones were moved to a specially built crypt in order to make space for the more recently deceased. Weird enough for you so far? Well, it gets weirder still.
In 1870, with the body count somewhere between 40,000 and 70,000, it was decided something had to be done about this massive accumulation of bones. František Rint, a local craftsman, was given permission to organise the bones into a range of wonderfully macabre displays. He was also responsible for bleaching all of the bones he decided to use to a uniform colour which, when you see the number of fibula, humerus, ribcages and skulls on display, must have been no small feat.
The ossuary itself is small but the displays within are numerous. The real standout constructions are the intricately-built chandelier and the large skeletal coat of arms. Less impressive but no less disturbing are the painstakingly stacked pyramids featuring human bones of every kind and the overhead bunting adorned with human skulls instead of colourful flags. There are bones everywhere and you can’t help but feel you’ve walked into a scene straight out of a Predator movie!
Our group decided to head into nearby Kutná Hora after our visit for a quick look around. Kutná Hora is small by modern standards but during medieval times it was one of the biggest cities in the Czech Republic owing to the discovery of abundant silver deposits in a local mine.
Despite its diminutive size, Kutná Hora offers a wide selection of great restaurants should you still have an appetite after your visit to the Bone Church. We called in at Restaurace V Ruthardce which is a carnivore’s dream. Serving meats of all kinds, you can gorge yourself on one of their massive mix grill platters while washing it down with lashings of Czech Budweiser which is far tastier than its more popular American counterpart. The interior of the restaurant, like many in Kutná Hora, has a distinctly medieval theme with simple wooden benches to sit upon and an understated amount of decoration. It also includes a large outdoor eating area if, like us, you catch decent weather during your visit. The restaurant offers an English menu and the staff seemed proficient enough in the language to deal with the orders and requests of our sizeable group with a minimum of problems.
To burn off some of the calories you’ve no doubt packed away after your meal, you could do worse than taking a stroll up to St Barbara’s Church. The church, which is a UNESCO world heritage site, is named after the patron saint of miners which is apt considering the rich mining heritage of the Kutná Hora area. At the time of our visit we were not allowed entry to the interior of the church but, even still, the structure is worth seeing for the exterior alone and the views of the surrounding areas it provides.
If you find yourself in Prague with a day or two to kill and have a stomach strong enough to withstand the gruesome nature of the landmark, then a combined trip to Sedlec Ossuary and Kutná Hora is well worth the effort.