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Sedlec Ossuary: A Church Made of Human Bones in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

Updated on September 3, 2013

Did you know,,,,?

  • The ossuary has some Hollywood connections! It was used as a location in the Dungeons and Dragons movie, and the film Blood & Chocolate.
  • Musician Rob Zombie used this church as inspiration for his movie House of 1000 Corpses.
  • The ossuary has been featured on Ripley's Believe it or Not!
  • In John Connolly's novel, The Black Angel, the ossuary is a major part of the plot.

What is it....?

The Sedlec Ossuary,or also known as "The Bone Church", is a small Roman Catholic church in the quaint town of Kutna Hora, Czech Republic. Why is it so unique? Because the entire church is furnished with artifacts made from human bones, approximately belonging to around 50,000 to 70,000 people. While this sounds like a scene out of a horror movie, it is actually more mind blowing than creepy. It is definitely a place of interest to check out if you happen to be traveling to the Czech Republic. There is no other building in the world like it, and out of all the ancient churches in Europe, this one has to be the most unusual one out there.

History has it that an abbot named Henry, who belonged to the Sedlec monastery, blessed the land around the area of the original abbey in Kutna Hora in the year the year 1278. Afterwards, the civilians of the town decided this to be a sort of "Holy Grounds" to be buried. When the Black Plague hit Europe during the 14th century, this was a favorable location to be laid to rest. As a result, they had to expand the cemetery. They decided to do this by building an ossuary, a large vault with multiple layers, to fit more bodies inside and create more room in the graveyard for new bodies. In the year 1511, they decided to unearth all the original bodies and stack them inside the ossuary. In 1870, a man named Frantisek Rint, who was a woodcarver by trade, was tasked to put the bones in order.....and the bone artifacts were born.

A view of the inside of the Bone Church
A view of the inside of the Bone Church

Where is it....?

Founded in 1142, Kutna Hora was originally settled by people of the Sedlec Monastery of Bohemia. Shortly after it began to be a huge hub for silver miners, and in 1260 the German miners flooded to the area to dig in the regional mountains. The economy of Kutna Hora was often in competition with Prague, and remained a large source of income from the silver up until the 18th century. While it may seem like a moderately sleepy town in modern times, it got quite a bit of attention from several kings and emperors back in the day. It even played a role during the Hussite Wars, being the location of the battle which took place there, The Battle of Kutna Hora, in 1421.

These days, Kutna Hora is a seemingly quiet town. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming, and there is a very nice quaint feel to it. There are lots of little shops, produce markets, and parks in the area which makes it very pleasant to walk through. The mines are still present, and although they are not in use, they offer tours that allow visitors to go down into the old silver mines. With that being said, there are a lot of places to buy silver and old coins as well. And of course, the famous Church of Bones, which is what is typically the big draw to the town. Kutna Hora is just a short train ride from Prague, and makes for a great day trip!

The outside of the church where the ossuary is
The outside of the church where the ossuary is

How to get there....

A markerZámecká, 284 03 Kutná Hora-Sedlec, Czech Republic -
Zámecká, 284 03 Kutna Hora, Czech Republic
get directions

A view from inside the church

The Artifacts Made of Bone

Below are the most popular and looked forward to items in the church made of ancient human remains.

A view from beneath the chandelier
A view from beneath the chandelier

Chandelier of Bones

As soon as you enter the church and walk down into the ossuary, one of the first things that will catch your eye is the massive chandelier of bones. It is an extraordinary art piece, and when you are looking at it, it's really hard to comprehend that these once were people! An interesting fact about this chandelier is that it contains at least one type of every human bone, and has been crafted in such a fine detail. It hangs right in the center of the main area, so it is also extremely hard to miss!

The Schwarzenberg family crest
The Schwarzenberg family crest

The Schwarzenberg Family Crest

The Schwarzenberg family were people from the old German lands who owned a lot of fieldoms and land in the Bohemian lands. Eventually, they were promoted to counts and princes and gained even more power and property through marriages. This is also the family that was in charge of the castle in the medieval town of Cesky Krumlov (which is another great day trip destination from Prague).In 1870, Frantisek Rint, the creator of these pieces, was assigned to do them by the Schwarzenberg family. Hence, why it is their family crest on display in the church. Rint engraved his signature onto this crest, and it is also 100% made from bones.

Leave an offering....

You will notice that on several locations throughout the crypt, people have thrown coins into the piles of bones and skulls. From my understanding, this is a sign of respect and acknowledgement of the people who are in this tomb.

What do you think of the Bone Church?

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    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Very interesting hub and well-presented. I saw the Sedlec Ossuary (on the internet) during my research for the osuary in Evora, Portugal. You really covered the history of the church and surrounding area quite well. I enjoyed reading this hub.

      Voted Up, U, A, I and H+