Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sedlec Ossuary: The Bone Church

Underneath the Cemetery Church of All Saints, which is situated in the town of Sedlec, a suburb of Kutná Hora in the Czech Republic, lies the Sedlec Ossuary. Otherwise known as The Bone Church, it is believed that Sedlic Ossuary contains the skeletal remains of between 40,000 and 70,000 people. What makes this particular ossuary unique is the fact that it takes the form of a  Roman Catholic chapel; one elaborately decorated with the bones of the deceased. Understandably, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Czech Republic drawing an estimated 200,000 visitors per year.

The ossuary's beginning goes back to the year 1278, when King Otakar of Bohemia sent Henry, Abbot of Cedlec's Cistercian Monastery, to the Holy Land. The abbot returned with a jar full of soil he had collected from Golgotha, the alleged site of Jesus' crucifixion. Once Henry sprinkled the jar's contents in the abbey cemetery, that graveyard became one of the most popular burial grounds in Central Europe.

The Black Death arrived on the continent during the 14h century, extinguishing the lives of between 75 to 200 million people. The early15 century saw the beginning of the Hussite Wars, which also claimed many
thousands of lives. Needless to say, many thousands of people were buried in the abbey cemetery as a result of these two occurrences; and due to the dire need for more burial space, the graveyard had to be enlarged.

Around the beginning of the 15th century a Gothic-styled church was constructed in the middle of the cemetery. The church contained a vaulted upper level and a lower chapel intended to serve as an ossuary for all of the skeletal remains unearthed during construction. Older graves were also unearthed in order to make way for newer burials. The bones of these deceased were also stored in the chapel ossuary.

In 1870 the aristocratic Schwarzenberg family commissioned a wood carver named Frantisek Rindt to arrange the chapel's contents into some type of logical order. Mr. Rindt proceeded to decorate and create furnishings to the entire chapel with the human remains he was charged with, thereby making the Sedlec Ossuary one of the world's great macabre spectacles.



This spectacular chandelier (above), which hovers over the chapel, is said to consist of every bone in the human body.

Have you seen a cross made from leg bones and human skulls before?

Four corners of the chapel consist of huge piles of human skulls. Is it any wonder that a friendly group of goths would visit a place such as this?

And that dear reader, is the story of The Bone Church.

All photos appear courtesy of Mira Miramariann
and Morten Marius Hansen.