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Apr 10 2015

Sedlec Ossuary in the Czech Republic

This might seem like a bit of an odd one, granted, but one of the things I wanted to see during my recent visit to the Czech Republic was the Sedlec Ossuary.  One of my flatmates, who joined me on my Czech adventure, discovered this place while searching for places to go and things to see before we left.  Well, we found it, so it’s this week’s Foto Friday.
Sedlec Ossuary pinThe ossuary is located underneath a small Roman Catholic chapel in the grounds of a cemetery in a suburb of a lovely town called Kutna Hora, which is about an hour from Prague.

It is one of twelve UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Czech Republic, and has the skeletal remains of between 40,000 to 70,000 people, many of which decorate the chapel.  Apparently, it’s one of the most visited sites in the Czech Republic.

The history of it dates back to the 13th century when a monk from a local monastery was sent to the Holy Land.  He returned with some earth that he had taken from Golgotha, and he sprinkled it over the cemetery.  Once word got out about it, the cemetery suddenly became ‘the place’ to be buried, and was probably the most sought after burial site in Central Europe.

In the 14th and 15th centuries, following the Black Death and the Hussite Wars, the cemetery expanded rapidly to cope with all the bodies.  A Gothic church was built in the middle of the cemetery, which had a lower chapel that was to be used as an ossuary for the mass graves that had been unearthed and to make room for new burials.

In the 18th century, the chapel was rebuilt, and in the 19th century a woodcarver was tasked with giving some order to the mass of skeletal remains that were piled up in the chapel.  This is what you see today.

I hadn’t seen any photos of it before I went.  All I knew was that we were going to visit a bone chapel.  I had no idea what it would actually be like.  Having been, I’m not sure what I think of it.  It was interesting to see it, and to learn a bit about its history, but I have no intention of visiting another ossuary in the near future.

Just like in Auschwitz, I found it weird watching people taking selfies in the ossuary as well as families having their photos taken with the mass of skeletal remains decorating the chapel.  Each to their own, I suppose!

Oh, one last thing: As you can see from the photo, there are coins that people have thrown in at some point.  I’m not sure why exactly, and can only assume it’s for good luck.

Location

As previously mentioned, Sedlec is a suburb of Kutna Hora, which isn’t far from Prague.  You can see it here on the map:

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You can get to Kutna Hora by train or bus from Prague.  We originally thought about going by bus because it would be cheaper and take us near the centre of Kutna Hora.  If you want to go by bus, you can apparently go from Florenc or Haje bus stations.  We didn’t realise there were two options, so we went all the way to Haje, which was a bit of hike because we had to use the bus replacement service since the metro line we needed was under construction.  So, it turned into a long journey just to get to the bus station.  Then, when we arrived at the bus station, the bus wasn’t due to leave for an hour and a half.  We had just missed one.  You will read that the buses are hourly.  They aren’t on Sundays and bank holidays, which is when we were there.

We decided to go by train in the end.  You have to change trains, but the little train from the main station to Kutna Hora is the cutest train ever, and it goes past Sedlec.  If you want to alight the train, you need to press the button to alert the driver.

Have your say 

Have you ever visited an ossuary?  What did you think of it?  If not, is it something you would consider doing while on a trip?

If you can shed light on why people have thrown money in, I’d love to hear from you?

About the author

Teresa Keane

Teresa has been to almost 60 countries. She started travelling independently at the age of 38 when she gave up her job, rented out her house, put her possessions in storage and spent a year travelling the world. It changed her life. She now creates, publishes, & promotes online travel content and is an experienced freelance trainer & EFL teacher.

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