Just an hour outside of Prague is the charming little silver mining town of Kutna Hora, known for its historic town center, enormous gothic cathedral, oh, and most famously its Bone Church. Easily the most eerie and macabre day-trip destination, Sedlec Ossuary church displaying the bones of around 3,000 dearly departed attracts thousands of curious visitors. For me, this was too much of a spectacle to miss.
So how does a church come to decide that its interior would be best decorated with the remains of its late patrons? Simply as a solution to the unsolvable problem of death. About 800 years ago a priest came back from Palestine with some earth which he sprinkled on the ground at the church. Word spread like wildfire in the small silver mining town and soon everyone and their mom wanted to be buried on the holy ground. When the Black Plague hit Europe this posed a bit of an issue and it became more crowded than Times Square underground. On top of that, the church was literally falling apart and needed to be renovated and expanded. The result: about 3,000 people were evicted from their eternal resting place and transformed into the art that decorates the chapel today in an effort to remind visitors of the inevitable.
It’s impossible not to feel very, very mortal in the chapel that is a bit of a shocker at first. The white bones that surround you are not Halloween decorations or part of a biology class model, they’re real. The church is small, but promises you’ll likely never see anything like it again. It features a central chandelier containing one of every bone in the human body, an intricately detailed coat of arms, and stacks of skulls. It takes about 20 minutes to explore the place in its entirety, be amazed at the detail work, and start guessing where each bone fits in the puzzle of human skeletal anatomy. To be honest, it was less creepy than I anticipated and more amazing. The bones were so artfully stacked and arranged in complex and beautiful geometric patterns that I almost forgot that they were human.
I’d definitely recommend making the visit to Kutna Hora Bone Church, but I’d emphasize the importance of pairing the church with Kutna Hora’s Saint Barbara Cathedral and historic Town Center, both of which are so beautiful, but I regrettably didn’t make it to either, making this a very short and sweet stop, but enjoyable nonetheless.
Address: Zámecká, 284 03 Kutná Hora, Czech Republic
+420 326 551 049 | Open 9a.m to 4 p.m. everyday