The original post I wrote about my trip to Kutná Hora. was one of my earliest attempts at blogging. Frankly, it was a bit rubbish. I didn’t really know anything about blogging back then, other than that I fancied a crack at it.
I’m no expert now, but I know a bit more than I did. I feel like so many aspects of my life could be summed up by that one little phrase. But, staying on topic…
The so called ‘Bone Church’ fascinates me as much now as it did when I originally visited in 2017. It makes a great day trip from the beautiful Czech Capital of Prague, a city to which some of you might be thinking of heading for a winter city break or to visit the Christmas markets. I hope you enjoy this new and shiny version of an old post.
Kutna Hora- Where Is It and What Is There?
Located about 30 miles east of Prague, the town of Kutná Hora once rivalled Prague in terms of wealth and importance. Built on the silver mining industry, it was home to Wenceslas II’s royal mint producing silver coins.
Sadly, the high living didn’t last. The decline of the mining industry along with several wars, ransacking’s, fire and a bit of plague left the town impoverished. The fortunes of Kutná Hora waxed and waned until the 1990’s, when the town centre was granted Unesco World Heritage Site status.
Now visitors head into town for the pretty town centre, the history and to visit what is possibly the towns best-known attraction: the Sedlec Ossuary, also known as The Bone Church.
Sedlec Ossuary-The History Bit
Sedlec is one of the oldest districts of Kutná Hora, a town that has been a place of great religious significance for thousands of years. The story goes that in 1278, a handful of earth from the Holy Land was brought to Sedlec and sprinkled in the cemetery here. This made it quite the desirable place to be laid to rest.
The exclusivity fell away somewhat as outbreaks of war and disease led to an influx of burials. Too many burials. So many bones, limited space. Time to get creative. The Church of All Saints was built, with an upper chapel and an underground Ossuary.
The bones weren’t just cleaned and stored here, they were crafted into garlands, pyramids and even a chandelier.
The Bone Church, Kutná Hora
There are various theories about how and why the bones came to be arranged as they are. It happened over time; records show that bones were already being decoratively arranged in the 16th century. Legend has it these early efforts were the work of a half blind monk who regained his sight after working in the ossuary.
The present-day structure of the bones is really down to the Schwarzenburg family, and it’s thanks to their patronage that the Sedlec Ossuary survived. In 1870 they commissioned a Czech woodcarver by the name of Frantisek Rint to give the place a bit of a makeover, and he went to town with it.
He created the magnificent chandelier, which contains each bone of the human body. He also built the Schwarzenburg coat-of-arms in bones, which depicts a bird pecking out the eye of an invading soldier. Suitably macabre, given the medium.
Rint took pride in his work and made sure he would be credited for it; if you look carefully, you’ll spot the name Rint spelled out in bones inside the church.
Visit with An Open Mind
The church is beautiful, the history fascinating and the medium unusual. But I can appreciate that some readers might be thinking; this isn’t for me. But if you’re in the area or looking for a day trip from Prague, I’d urge you to visit and go with an open mind.
The overall tone of the place is tranquil and intriguing, rather than dark. There is a beauty to it, with candles lit and coins left by visitors glinting in the flickering light. I suspect the atmosphere might feel a more haunting if you manage to visit at a quiet time but given that the chapel is small and its reputation large, this might be tricky.
If you want a real experience out of your visit, it is possible to book a night tour by candlelight of the Ossuary and Sedlec Cathedral with a guide dressed as a Cistercian monk or nun. I reckon that would charge up both the atmosphere and imagination.
Getting There & Getting In
By car, it’s just over an hour’s drive to Kutná Hora.
The train from Prague to Kutná Hora also takes around an hour, be aware that not all trains are direct. The Sedlec Ossuary is located about a twenty-minute walk from the main station. A standard adult return ticket is currently about 244 CZK, or around £9.
Standard adult entry to the Ossuary is 160 CZK, or about £5. Find information on the Ossuary and other religious sites of Sedlec here.