Kutna Hora – a day in the infamous Sedlec Ossuary

Kutna Hora is a small town located about 70 km outside of Prague.  The town itself isn’t especially beautiful or unique, but it does hold one of the most impressive and macabre sites in Europe, Sedlec Ossuary.  The ossuary is affiliated with the cemetery of a nearby church and is located in a small gothic style building in the center of the graveyard.

 

The sidewalk at the entrance to Sedlec Ossuary

Tiffany and I headed from our hostel to the train station in the late morning, still a bit jet lagged and tired from the previous day trekking around the entire city.  As we made our way to the train, we stopped in Wenceslas Square for a small breakfast of berries and a cheese sandwich which we carried to the station.  After purchasing our tickets, we spent an hour sitting on the floor eating berries and waiting for the noon train.

After an hour ride, we arrived in the rainy town of Kutna Hora and began our quest to find the ossuary.  Our first stop in town was the church which owns the ossuary.  This imposing structure, built in gothic style, was surprisingly bright and cheerful inside, as it had a soft yellow paint which covered all the walls.  The domes of the ceiling had ornate murals and patterns of white trim.  However, there were traces of the macabre inside, such as a section of wall carved out and holding four human skulls and some long bones.  There was also a section on the second floor that allowed you to see the original stonework of the walls and arches.  Overall, it was a beautiful and quaint church that one would never expect to be home to a site as macabre as Sedlec.

 

Inside the church

 

Who needs bricks when you can have skulls?

We carried on walking in search of the ossuary, and with the help of the information desk of the church, we got a map and arrived at the entrance shortly after.  We came in through the back entrance of the cemetery, so we had to walk through the paths which criss-crossed the yard to find the doors to the ossuary.  Walking in was a shock, instantly the infamous chalice of bones and skeleton chandelier were right in front of us.  We bought our tickets (and a couple of skull souvenirs) at the small desk at the entrance and proceeded to spend an hour walking through the tiny building.

 

The ossuary and surrounding cemetery

From the entrance, you descend down a staircase flanked on both sides by the bone chalices, and below a cross of bones.  From here you are standing below the chandelier, which is surrounded on two sides by rooms stacked to the ceiling with human remains.  Below the chandelier are displays with human skulls covered with wax from the candles lit above them.  Each of these is topped with a cherub figure, topping off the creepy/cool factor of the place.

 

Entering the ossuary



 In one of the side rooms hangs a huge coat of arms made of almost every bone of the body cut and broken into place.  My favorite part of this is the bird, whose beak is made of a broken humerus, pecking at the orbit of a skull.  In between this area and the opposing room is a small shrine where people throw coins and light candles.  We spent so much time analyzing the hundreds of skulls in the ossuary, a foreshadowing of what we would be doing a few weeks later in Romania.


 When we finished fangirling over the ossuary, we took a bus across town to St. Barbara’s Cathedral, a stunning example of gothic architecture located on the other side of the city.  This building has enormous flying buttresses and exquisite stained glass windows depicting various stories from the Bible.  The ceiling is adorned with ornate trim and paintings of the coat of arms’ from families in the region.  The church was so much more impressive than the first one we visited that day, but unfortunately we had to rush back to the bus less than 15 minutes later in order to catch the bus back to our train to Brno.  I’d love to return to visit the town for more time, especially St. Barbara’s, but that day we continued our journey southeast to the city of Brno.

 

Inside St. Barbara’s Church

 

St. Barbara’s Church

 

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