The Ossuary in Sedlec – Kutna Hora

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The Ossuary of Sedlec near Kutna Hora just might be the most unusual ossuary in the world. Built in the 1400’s in Gothic style and remodeled in Baroque style between 1703 – 1710 by the famous Czech architect, of the Italian origin ,Jan Blažej SANTIM-Aichl. The ossuary contains the remains of about 40,000 deceased. The charnel-house was built in the center of the cemetery, destined for the deposition of bones from abolished graves. The present day arrangement of bones was carried out by a Czech wood-carver and artist, Frantisek Rent and dates back to 1870. The bones became part of the decoration of the chapel as Master Rint created morbidly

fascinating sculptures and artwork. Among his creations came to be a grand chandelier, containing every bone of the human skeleton, composed of several bodies,  monstrances,  obelisk candle stick holders, and the coat-of-arms of the Schwarzenberg noble family, who employed Rent to imaginatively arrange the bones into works of art. The largest collections of bones are arranged in the form of bells in the four corners of the chapel.

The relatively small cemetery and ossuary is located behind the Gothic Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady and St. John the Baptist.  Dwarfed in comparison to the cathedral, the small Chapel of All Saints might go unnoticed if it wasn’t for the carved stone skull and crossbones above its gate and the mosaic skulls designed into the sidewalks at the foot of the tall cemetery wall. Stepping through the gate you first get a glimpse of the chapel. The door of the chapel remains ajar revealing the first glance of the amazing array of skulls, femurs and pelvis bones. As you enter the chapel your eyes become transfixed by the careful arrangement of bones that line the walls leading down a set of white marble stairs to the basement under the chapel. The enormous chandelier dominating the chamber below, seems to draw heaven down to earth as the four obelisks, appear to be pulling earth up to heaven. Standing in the center of the room and gazing at the four bells, containing approximately 10,000 deceased each. One can not help to think that every skull represents a person that once lived and breathed as we do today. Each with their own story yet connected with us today in many respects. Not the least being that one day we will end up like them, as a pile of bones, forgotten. Most of our lives unwritten in history, our impact on life forgotten.

I want to thank Marco Robol for furnishing the photographs that I have displayed.  If you would like to see more photographs of the ossuary, I have included a link below.

Visit the Sedlec Ossuary

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