The Bone Church

“Bone Church?” I questioned as we spoke with some new friends on the way to Prague. “Sounds creepy, I definitely want to go.”

“Of course you do.” My friend scoffed. She knew my interest in the morbid went deep.

After a couple days of exploring and falling in love with Prague (a post that will come later), I knew I had to make the trip to Kutna Hora. The train ride was a quick hour and yet I felt as though we had stepped into an entirely different time zone.

Where Prague bustled with tourists, plenty of English and gorgeous architecture- Kutna Hora was humble. The mood of the town was somber, little to no English was spoken and the buildings were much less boastful. It was as if you could still feel the effects of communism and the civil uprising … a not so distant past.

We decided to stop for lunch in effort to take in the ambiance of this quiet little town. The waitress acted as though our presence was a nuisance. I can’t say I blame her. The only Czech I can speak is to say cheers. That makes ordering lunch a little more difficult.

After stuffing ourselves with a yummy goulash we made our way to the Bone Church. I was eerily excited to see just what this place had in store for us. The Bone Church’s proper name is Sedlec Ossuary. The land surrounding it was a cemetery that held thousands of bodies and a rich history.

Sedlec Ossuary
Sedlec Ossuary
Cemetery that surrounds the church
Cemetery that surrounds the church

During the 14th Century, The Black Death claimed so many lives that the town was nearly destroyed. Again in the 15th Century Hussite War took more lives. The cemetery had to expand. In 1400 a gothic, Roman Catholic Church, was built in the center of the cemetery. During this construction a mass grave was discovered. A lower level was built as an Ossuary to hold the skeletons that were found. The task of exhuming the bodies was placed in the hands of half-blind monks- that were said to be mad. They began stacking the bones and placing them in geometric shapes. Lunacy ruled the church.

In the early 1700’s the upstairs was rebuilt in Czech Baroque style. This was common practice in this time period and many buildings remain a mix of Gothic and Baroque designs – making the architecture in Czech Republic unique and utterly picturesque.

Frantisek Rint, a woodworker, was later commissioned by a local family to adorn the church with the carcasses- to remind us of life and our unavoidable death. He white washed the bones to make them brighter. Creepy.

F. Rint- Proud "interior decorator"
F. Rint- Proud “interior decorator”

I paid a small donation to the church so that I could take pictures. The décor was off-putting, yet somehow beautiful. Above me were chandeliers made of hip and jaw bones, a kind of bone garland draped through the air. Skulls were stacked in the middle on pillars, one skull even had a bird (made of bones) pecking at it’s eye socket. Why? This was undoubtedly the most bizarre place I had ever been. It was awesome.

Bone Chandelier
Bone Chandelier
This just reminds me of the Black Death
This just reminds me of the Black Death
Here we are. Unsure of our smiles in this beautiful nightmare.
Here we are. Unsure of our smiles in this beautiful nightmare.
Why? Oh Why?
Why? Oh Why?
Everyone needs one of these. Right?
Everyone needs one of these. Right?

In the Ossuary below, bones were stacked so deeply that they had four different sort of cages for them. So many bones, so much death. It is estimated that 40,000 skeletons make up the ornamentation.

One of four "stacks" in the Ossuary
One of four “stacks” in the Ossuary
This is a picture from the "tunnel" in the above stack.
This is a picture from the “tunnel” in the above stack.

I admit it, I loved it and thought every aspect of this place was crazy but magical- in the creepiest way possible. I was thrilled to have made the trip, completely worth it. The experience was lush with history and downright macabre. I would recommend the trip if your ever in the area.

Have any of you ever been? Did you have a similar experience? Did it freak you out and leave you with sleepless nights?

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22 thoughts on “The Bone Church

  1. Thanks for posting this, it was so interesting. I have never been anywhere even remotely this unusual. Even when I was in Germany, I never went to the concentration camps, which are the only things I can think of with that many bones. I should have gone, I do love history the good and the bad.

    1. Thanks Audrey. I think we would have had a blast together researching all of the weird details and history of this place. This is just a blurb of the church…imagine all of the stories from The Black Death and the wars? That city has been torn apart and put together so many times…no wonder nobody smiles 🙂

  2. How spooky! Wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t see it. Luckily they didn’t have reality TV back then, because I don’t know how Mr Rint would go on one of those home decorator shows!

    A friend went to the Catacombs of Paris once and got scared out of her mind! Her description made me too scared to go!

  3. Oh wow, never heard of this place, and can’t believe that I haven’t. That last photo with the skulls, it’s like something out of a nightmare. Really interesting stuff, think I just learned something… I’m sure there’s a story in this somewhere, complete with mad half-blind monks and religion run amok.

  4. What the hell! I was in Prague a few years ago but never heard of this place. How odd. I totally would have gone. The only similar place I’ve been was the Killing Fields in Phnohm Penh where they still have people’s skulls near the mass graves… but it’s sobering because it was a genocide.

    This is creepy as f*ck!

  5. Ya gotto gotta respect history or you don’t learn more about the future. That’s what I always thought when looking at history. Looking forward to reading your blog more in the future.

  6. What a creepy place. As an anthropologist trained in forensic anthropology I would normally enjoy myself being able to inspect so many bones. But this is creepy. Though, what an adventure. Lucy

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