The Sedlec Ossuary, Czech Republic

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Sedlec

Visiting a Roman Catholic chapel is a common occurrence for many during a holiday or vacation. From intricate works of art to stunning stained glass, many of these chapels are several centuries old. Done in Gothic or Baroque architecture, it is often an engineer’s dream to stroll through these amazing buildings and marvel at how such wonderful architecture came with such crude equipment.

That’s not how you’d describe the Sedlec Ossuary in Kutná Hora. Yes, it is a Roman Catholic chapel. Yes, it does have amazing works of art. Here’s the thing – the works of art are made from human bones.

More Than 40,000 Remains Reside at the Sedlec Ossuary

In the late 13th century, Henry the Abbot, who resided at the local monastery in Sedlec, travelled to the Holy Land and brought back with him a handful of dirt from Golgotha, which is the hill where Jesus was reportedly crucified. He sprinkled the dirt over the cemetery and once everyone found out about this, they all wanted to be buried there. Over the next 600 years, up to 70,000 people were buried in this tiny cemetery, causing officials to build a Gothic church with an upper and lower chapel. The Sedlec Ossuary is the lower chapel.

In the late 19th century, there were so many bones that the Ossuary and cemetery were overflowing. That’s when František Rint was hired to arrange the bones in a way that they could be properly managed. The results of his work are what drive nearly 200,000 people to the Sedlec Ossuary every year, making it one of the Czech Republic’s most visited sites.

Imagine Chandeliers, Crucifixes, & Furniture Made From Human Bones…

The entrance to the Sedlec Ossuary will give you a glimpse of what is waiting for you. Hung above the door to the chapel is a crucifix that is made with human bones. As you come inside, look up and you’ll see what looks like several human spines draped from the ceiling. Look a little bit closer and you’ll realize that each vertebrae is actually a separate human skull with a bone in its mouth. In the center of the ceiling hangs a chandelier that has various arm & leg bones draped from it where one would normally see crystal or glass decorations.

As you approach the altar of the chapel, you’ll approach four triangular pillars, each with multiple shelves containing one skull with a bone in its mouth, similar to the “spines” that are on the ceiling. There are also various works of art that line the Ossuary walls, including a fully accurate coat of arms for the Schwarzenberg family, who commissioned Rint to organize the bones in some way. The coat of arms protects a large ossuary chamber that is filled to overflowing with remains.

As you leave, you have the opportunity to leave a donation at what would traditionally be the donation box in most Roman Catholic chapels. At the Sedlec Ossuary, however, you can place the coins inside or next to a human skull.

Plan Your Visit Today!

The Sedlec Ossuary has regular business hours:

  • Between April & September: from 8:00am to 6:00pm
  • In October & In March: from 9:00am to Noon & from 1:00pm to 5:00pm
  • Between November & February: from 9:00am to Noon & from 1:00pm to 4:00pm.

There is an entry fee of 50 Koronas for adults & 30 Koronas for students and children. An additional fee of 30 Koronas is required for the ability to take pictures within the Ossuary. You can also pick up a souvenir skull to commemorate your visit, but alas… this one is only made of plaster. Most people stay in Prague and ride the train to Kutná Hora, then walk to the Ossuary as hotel options in this small town are often limited.

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