If you travel the world enough, you’ll inevitably bore of museums and sites where seemingly important stuff happened long ago that you’re visiting solely because everyone else is. For instance, would you ever have kissed that grimy rock in Ireland or visited that old radio tower in Paris if it wasn’t “a thing” to do? So the tower in Pisa leans? Big Deal! All the towers in Italy lean! Seriously, you can’t swing a spaghetti noodle without hitting a building that looks like the Tin Man trying to freak out his new friends. If you only had a
heart proper weight-supporting foundation.
Eventually, you’ll crave more enriching experiences and, in my case, morbidity. And that’s why you’ll ditch that boring-ass clock in Prague and hop a train to go check out some painstakingly arranged human remains! It’s going tibia good day.
The fact that I’m posting an article about human skeletons on Halloween is a total coincidence by the way. So is the fact that I ate twelve Kit-Kat bars for breakfast. Sometimes things just have a way of working themselves out, huh? And by that I mean my insulin levels…
When planning for my upcoming trip to Prague, I came across the Sedlec Ossuary online somewhere and thought it looked awesome and worth a visit. Similarly is why you will soon see me reporting from Ōkunoshima (Japan’s island of rabbits), Mars, and the Emerald City of Oz which I hear has a pretty great spa and a horse that changes colors.
The Sedlec Ossuary is located in Kutná Hora, Czech Republic and is an easy one-hour train ride from Prague’s main station. Besides, we needed a detox day from all the liters of dirt cheap beer we’d been drinking in Prague. Just kidding, we drank beer in Kutná Hora too. Bazinga!
Some people think that hanging out in such close proximity to skeletons could be a bit eerie but it wasn’t at all. Probably because it didn’t seem real. The bones are neatly stacked and fancily displayed… they’ve been made into works of art. They’re not staring up at you from the forest floor while you walk your dog or hanging from the beams in your attic. This is a chapel, not the basement of the house you just rented from that guy on Craigslist. You know, the one without any windows?
Come on, I know you’ve got it in you. 😂
Ossuary: a site made to serve as the final resting place for human skeletons. Which, as Google puts it, is pronounced: /ˈäSHo͞oˌerē,ˈäs(y)o͞o-/ ⇠WHOEVER invented this crap method of reference needs to be pummeled. I think it’s time to retire this nonsense altogether. It’s like you’re literally trying to speak whale à la Finding Nemo.
That being said, I’m pretty sure the entire world is covered in ossuaries, i.e. the ground. No? Tell me I’m wrong. Well, at least this kind of ossuary is pretty much everywhere… in Europe. Those ‘peans really have a thing for the macabre. Excuse me, məˈkɑːbrə. It’s like you’re twelve and you and your pipsqueak friends are trying to invent a language so your little sister can’t understand when you talk about boogers.
The Sedlec Ossuary is associated with the Cistercian monastery that was founded here in 1142 and is located in the basement of the Church of All Saints (pictured above and completed in the late 1300s). The church is seriously nothing special (don’t tell it I said that) but the basement is otherworldly. Or, I guess, underworldly? I haven’t seen this many bones since that time someone knocked over the trash can at the hot wing festival.
And all of this exists because…
In the year 1278 one of the monastery leaders returned from Jerusalem with some dirt from Golgotha* after completing a mission for the Czech king. He scattered the dirt around the Sedlec cemetery and from then on Europeans desired to be buried here in the holy, albeit pilfered, soil.
*Am I the only one who didn’t know what Golgotha was? Anyway, it’s said to be the site where Jesus was crucified and, ironically enough, the Bible translates as “place of the skull.” Sooo that’s weird and oddly prophetic.
Pretty soon there would be 40,000 skeletons that would need dealt with. 30,000 of them plague victims from the early 14th century and 10,000 more from 15th century wars. Toward the end of the 15th century a blind monk arranged the 40k bones in the Sedlec ossuary and, because of his noble act, is said to have REGAINED HIS SIGHT. So, believe that if you want, but also know that I have an IQ of 164, I own not one, but two time machines, and I possess the ability to transform myself into a mobile puddle ever since that collision with the truck from the chemical plant.
The monastery was abolished in 1783 but purchased by the Schwarzenberg family whose house I would not want to visit on a dark and stormy night. Almost a century later a woodcarver by the name of František Rint was hired to turn the skeletons into something other than boring-ass stacks of bones. Come on, man–ya gotta keep up with the Jóňešes!
The ossuary is a small, cross-shaped basement with a Jesus centerpiece. However, the crucified Jesus is not a skeleton. The one human form in here where a skeleton would have made perfect sense! I guess that whole Jesus’s body didn’t decompose thing is true.
The four of us had the place to ourselves and borrowed their laminated information sheets to guide us. (Those info sheets can be downloaded here.)
After a school bus or two of children arrived who proceeded to loudly flood the ossuary, we took that as our sign to high-tail it outta there and to the cemetery which was equally as loud on account of all the coffin.
What? That was a good one! Throw me a bone here…
Wandering through the cemetery we discovered that apparently 40k bones just isn’t enough for these greedy hoarders. Outside the church they are currently excavating more and more skeletons which we found to be THE MOST FASCINATING THING EVER. My apologies to the guy who spent all that time turning those bones into art… apparently bones in the ground is just as cool.
There are countless more skeletons hidden all around the church. Look at every inch of the ground–there’s just bones sticking out at every angle. I hope these photos… don’t get… under your skin. 😁
Unfortunately, during our visit the highlight of the Sedlec Ossuary–the chandelier–was down for repairs. But as I’ve mentioned a hundred million times, when visiting Europe at least one of the things you hope to see will be “closed for renovation,” “down for repairs,” or covered in scaffolding. And as it goes, it’s back up now.
However, we did get to see a pretty badass coat of arms. A COAT OF ARMS, Y’ALL! Like, actual freaking arms. Oh my God this is too good. This is why I get up in the morning. And also because I probably have to pee. The coat of arms (and legs, and lumbar, and pelvises) is specifically the coat of arms for the Schwarzenberg family from whom you definitely don’t want to rent a room.
And if you’re curious, yes–the Schwarzenberg coat of arms actually does have a bird pecking out the eyes of a person. You can see the real version here although does it get any more real than what’s hanging in the Sedlec Ossuary? I don’t think so, Tim.
The rest of our trip to Kutná Hora, Czech Republic is coming soon in another article I’m working on. Be sure to subscribe (at the bottom of this page) so you don’t miss out!
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I learned the hard way how NOT to tour a brewery on my latest visit to Munich, Germany and wrote about it for all to read. We’re all allowed a few dumb mistakes every now and then…
I enjoy indulging in the local culture when I travel so upon learning that Prague is the beer-drinking capital of the world I knew I wanted to soak it all in. Specifically through my pores and whilst mostly nude.