Hussite Wars, half-blind priests, Silver Miners
A Chapel Built from the Bones of 40,000 People
During one of our days in Prague, we drove to the nearby small town of Kutná Hora, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We didn't actually visit any of the UNESCO portions, though—we were there to see the Sedlec Ossuary.
In the 1300s, Kuntá Hora, an area rich in silver mines, became a favorite spot of several Kings of Boehmia. For centuries the city competed with Prague as a cultural and economic center until the 16th century, when the Habsburgs took over the region and the whole city fell apart. The mines flooded and were abandoned, the Hussite Wars raged through the region, and waves of plague took countless lives.
Those countless claimed lives had to be buried, of course, and many people wanted to be buried at the Cemetery Church of All Saints, where the cemetery allegedly contained a small amount of dirt from Golgotha, the site when Jesus Christ died on the cross.
But in 1400, the church was built atop the cemetery and a lot of bodies were exhumed during the construction. A half-blind priest took all those bones, allegedly of 40,000 people, and stacked them in the basement Ossuary. As the legend goes, after his work was complete, his eyesight was restored.
It's said that some of the bones were arranged in these unusual, decorative patterns, but it wasn't until 1870, when the family who owned the abbey hired a woodcarver to complete this work.
In each of the four corners of the Ossuary large numbers of bones are stacked in bell-shaped towers, and in one corner there's a large elaborate heraldic-style crest made up entirely of human bones.
The ossuary is in the basement, so cold and dark. Along the back wall, between two of the bell-shaped towers of bones, there's a small alcove that contains a chapel with a large crucifix. It was a macabre and fantastic place to visit.