After a brief train ride from Prague, we found ourselves in a quiet and ghostly town called Sedlec near Kutna Hora. We were there for one purpose and one purpose only: to explore the “Bone Church.”
A bone church? A church made from real human bones?
Yes, it’s exactly as bizarre as it sounds.
Here’s the dirt:
In the 13th century, a monk returned from Palestine with a handful of “holy soil.” He sprinkled the soil around a patch of land. Instantly, it was believed to be holy land and people were dying to be buried there (lol).
This tiny, sacred cemetery became the most desired final resting place in Central Europe, and the number of bodies quickly surpassed the capacity of the graveyard. The plague and the Hussite War brought about many deaths, leaving thousands and thousands of bodies resting underneath the holy soil. Several years later, a church was built in the center of the graveyard. The bottom floor of the church became an ossuary of sorts, holding 40,000 skeletons that were displaced during the church construction.
Three hundred years later, the wealthy Schwarzenberg family claimed ownership of the church. They paid a woodcarver named František Rint to adorn the church with the bones. They wanted something to symbolize the impermanence of life and the inevitability of death.
Inside the church, you can find a chandelier made from every bone in the human body, four pyramids made from skulls and femurs, display cases featuring skulls inflicted with traumatic war wounds, the Schwarzenberg family crest and Rint’s signature made from, of course, finger bones.
As we wandered around, I continually felt like I should be terribly troubled by my surroundings. But for some reason I wasn’t.
I knew the bodies didn’t die just to be featured in a small town church in Prague and maybe that’s what kept me eager to see more. Or maybe it didn’t really register that those were real human bones until after we departed.
At one point, I even thought it would be cool to have my bones displayed in a place like this after I die! Ornately decorating a church rather than rotting under the ground.
Services are still held in the church, and unfortunately, we were just one day late for the Christmas mass!
However, the messages of impermanence and death come through loud and clear. Forty thousand humans make up the inside of that church. Forty thousand people who were once just like me.
So what are your thoughts? Is this “bone church” creepy or cool? I found it to be exceptionally interesting and not at all creepy, but I’m sure this could be slightly disturbing to some!