A Rare Find
of a Church
June 15, 2006
I had met a woman who was traveling for six months with her two teenage children when I was in Egypt. She had just come
from Central Europe. When I told her I was going to be coming here, she suggested that I do a sidetrip to Kutna Hora if I was
going to be in Prague. Because it came recommended, I decided to take the one hour train ride. The town of Kutna Hora itself
really mostly consists of lots of different churches. These churches were not the reason I was coming here. I was coming here
to make my way to the suburb of Sedlec to see a Christian chapel. Sounds pretty odd for someone like me who feels like I’ve
had more than my fix of churches over the past years. Aren’t they all the same at this point? Not this one. What sets this one
apart is the ‘decoration’ inside the church. One could say that it took about 40,000 people to create this church. The reason
for this is because this is an ossuary.
The definition of an ossuary = a container or receptacle, such as an urn or a vault, for holding the bones of the dead.
About 40,000 human skeletons have been used for the decorations and furnishings of the church.
And now for a little bit of the history behind the church...
This area became a desirable area to be buried because the abbot of the Cistercian monastery brought back some dirt from
the Holy Land (Jerusalem) in 1278 after visiting and sprinkled it here. In 1400 a church was built in the center of the
cemetery. The lower chapel would be used as an ossuary for the unearthed graves that were found during the construction.
The cemetery had to be enlarged in the 16th century because of all of the people buried here.
In 1870 the Schwarzenbergs (an aristocratic family who dated back to 1172 in Bohemia) employed a man Frantisek Rint to
put the bone heaps in order. Needless to say, this man was quite creative. He created what is there today. He even made a
Schwarzenberg family coat-of-arms with bones. The chandelier was made with at least one of each bone from the human
body. Being a physiology major in college, I was able to point out many of these bones. Okay…not many. But I did notice
some nice looking ilia.
As I know now after visiting a chapel made out of all salt (outside of Krakow, Poland) and now seeing one made out of 40,000
people’s bones…not all churches are created equally.