In the heart of the Czech countryside, a medieval city East of Prague is Kutná Hora, a World Heritage Site status according to UNESCO, with a deep attraction not for the faint-hearted bones.
A short walk through the narrow streets of the small suburb of Sedlec in Kutna Hora brings you to a serene but eerie chapel, The Church of All Saints. It seems to be the feet of God from the outside but lurking underneath is a chilling tale of mystery and death.
Branded the Church of Bones, the story behind its ghastly attraction is thrown back to 1278, when the King of Bohemia sent the abbot (a man who is the head of a community of monks) of the Sedlec Cistercian Monastery to Jerusalem. The abbot is said to have come back with a jar of soil from the Golgotha, the site where Jesus Christ’s crucifixion is said to have occurred, and spread it around the local cemetery.
When folks learnt that the “Holy Soil” was in the Church of All Saints, masses from all over the region started requesting to be buried there.
Down a small staircase, in the lower chamber of this Roman Catholic church, lies the Sedlec Ossuary, adorned with around 40,000 to 70,000 human skeletons. These bones were exhumed from this site in the 15th century to make room for the town’s expansion, as well as new burials.
The chandelier of this underground chapel is entire of bones, as well as chains of human skulls. To the right is a piling mass of human skulls, to the left sits a coat of arms formed of the bones of an aristocratic Czech family who once ruled over the city. The bones are arranged in a religious display to remind visitors that a site is a place of Worship.
“There are still regular masses held in the upper chapel as well as in the lower chapel. There are also concerts held inside the church,” noted Radka Krejčí, Corporate Department Manager for the Sedlec Ossuary.
In 2018, the site welcomed around 450,000 tourists. The ossuary is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the Czech Republic and the most visited in the Central Bohemian region which is still a Roman Catholic church surrounded by a functional cemetery. The importance of the ancient site to the city’s tourism is somewhat reflected in the extensive renovation it’s currently undergoing.