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Sedlec Ossuary, Kutna-Hora, Czech Republic

This Roman Catholic chapel fully decorated with human bones is situated near the town of Kutna Hora, 60 km from Praha. The history of the chapel takes its roots from 13th century. At that time an abbot from Sedlec was sent to Jerusalem and brought some Holy Land and scattered it on the territory of the cemetery. It rapidly became very popular burial ground among the devout population of Central Europe. Later the cemetery matured vastly because of constant wars and diseases. Around 1400 the shrine was built: bones from old graves were kept here to make room for new ones. In 1784 according to Emperor Joseph II's order the cemetery and the shrine were closed. The territory was sold to Schwarzenberg family. In 1870 they hired Frantisek Rint, a carpenter, to furnish the shrine. He made this place look the way we see it now. The chapel is estimated to contain the skeletons of between 40,000 and 70,000 people. Today the chapel is available for the visitors 7 days a week.

The chapel was redecorated in 1703-1710 due to security purposes and interior amendments: a new entrance was built to bear the bended wall; also the upper stage was refurnished in baroque style. It's difficult to judge unequivocally about the moral side of the matter, but the chapel looks quite nice. Rint used hydrated lime solution so the bones have a specific white color. A big candelabrum is hung from the nave: they say there is at least one of all human bones type. However the candelabrum is not the only exclusive decoration here. There are pyramids made from skulls in the form of bells. On the top of each pyramid there is a statue of an angel. Also it should be mentioned about the Schwarzenberg arms and Rink's autograph. Most probably he was eager to immortalize his name but tried to keep the whole atmosphere.

All this may seem very odd at a glance, but this chapel is not the only building in this style. Santa-Maria-della-Concezione (Rome, Italy), Cele-Kula, the tower pf skulls (Nis, Serbia), the Chapel of Bones (Evora, Portugal).

By Sona Gasparian,

Photos by Alexander Sharov:


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