A church erected from human bones stands an hour away from Prague near a Czech Republic town called Kutná Hora. This Bone Church, or Sedlec Ossuary, contains tens of thousands of human skeletons, a spooky presentation arranged with enough artistic and macabre finesse around the dark Catholic chapel on pillars and chandeliers and skull streamers to mark the church as one of the top scary places to visit this Halloween season.
The Bone Church Origins
How did this skeletal monument come to be one of the top scary places of the Czech Republic? The history of the Sedlec Ossuary dates back as far as the late 13th century, characterized by a story of death in abundance, as any of the world’s best scary places should be.
The story starts with an abbot and a sprinkle of holy dust from the Jerusalem hill of Golgotha. It was 1278, when a local abbot peppered some of this special soil around the cemetery of the Sedlec abbey.
And then came the bodies. The Black Death and the Hussite Wars in the 14th and 15th centuries brought thousands of corpses to be buried in the cemetery at the Sedlec Ossuary—until there simply was no room left.
With the cemetery beyond capacity, a Gothic-style church was built around 1400, dedicating the lower chapel area as an ossuary for the thousands of human remains leftover. In 1511, a half-blind monk began his task of exhuming skeletons and stacking their bones in the bone church. The Bone Church of Sedlec Ossuary was on its way to becoming one of the world’s uniquely scary places.
The Sedlec Ossuary became the gruesomely beautiful bone church of today in 1870. In that year, the House of Schwarzenberg employed a local woodcarver in the Czech Republic named František Rint to artistically rearrange the bones of the Sedlec Ossuary. Rint’s unique design of the Sedlec Ossuary’s bones lent the ossuary its macabre flourish that made the bone church famous in the Czech Republic and abroad.
Sedlec Ossuary: A Scary Places Travel Guide
While the Sedlec Ossuary is not the only bone church in the Czech Republic and Europe, it’s definitely one of the most famous due to the elaborate nature of its skeletal adornments. If you think “bone church,” then you’re probably imagining the Sedlec Ossuary.
Located in Sedlec, a suburb of the town of Kutná Hora, Czech Republic, the Sedlec Ossuary is about an hour east of Prague. From the outside, the Sedlec Ossuary looks like just any other plain church—a far cry from a coveted spot on the list of the world’s scary places. However, it’s the interior of the bone church that earns its status as one of the world’s scary places. Take a step inside the church and you’ll be overwhelmed by stacks and stacks of meticulously composed groupings of over 40,000 human skeletons.
The Reworking of the Bones
František Rint masterfully reworked Sedlec Ossuary’s thousands of bones, elevating it from grotesque to morbid masterpiece. Rint created dozens of delicately detailed artworks out of bone, including altarpieces, four chandeliers, a large chalice, and elaborate decorative chains wreathed with stacks of skulls. Rint even created a skeletal version of the House of Schwarzenberg’s coat of arms, complete with every detail—even the crow plucking an eye out of the severed head of a Turkish soldier.
Rint also left his signature in bones on a wall of the ossuary. It reads: “F.Rint 1870,” along with the name of his hometown, Česká Skalice of the Czech Republic.
The Bone Chandelier
Arguably the centerpiece of the Sedlec Ossuary, the enormous bone chandelier hanging over the nave welcomes visitors with its intricate interlacing of skeletal remains. This amazing chandelier uses every bone in the human body at least once. There are 206 bones in the human body—this chandelier is made up of literally hundreds of bones. The seven arms of the chandelier are formed from vertebrae, each arm ending in a skull with a mounted candle. Given its incredible construction, this bone chandelier is iconic of the bone church itself.
Other ossuaries can be found throughout the Czech Republic, including the one at Brno, which is Europe’s second largest ossuary after the Paris Catacombs, with 50,000 confirmed human remains. If you’re looking for scary places without the crowds, the much quieter Melnik Ossuary is much less visited by tourists than the sometimes busy Sedlec Ossuary.
How to Get to the Sedlec Ossuary from Prague
Sedlec is about 85 km away from Prague and is easily reachable by bus and train.
Take a train to Kutná Hora from Prague’s main train station (hlavní nádraží). These trains run every two hours in the morning and early afternoon, and every hour starting at 3 PM. Once at the Kutná Hora main train station, transfer to a local train to Kutná Hora’s city center. These local trains pass right through Sedlec. Get off at the first stop (Kutná Hora—Sedlec). Make sure you press the request-stop button by the door right as the train gets going to make sure you don’t miss the stop. When you get off, just follow the signs to the ossuary.
You can catch a bus to Kutná Hora from the Praha-Haje bus stop in Prague (metro line C, stop Haje). These buses leave every hour throughout the day, and the trip takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes. Get off at Kutná Hora’s city center (centrum) and take city bus # 1 (every half hour during the week) or city bus #7 (every hour on the weekends). Get off at the Sedlec, Tabak stop by the Phillip Morris factory, about a 15 minute ride. Just follow the signs to the ossuary!
Nearby Attractions in the Czech Republic
The Sedlec Ossuary is very close to several other attractions in Sedlec and Kutná Hora in the Czech Republic.
In Sedlec, the Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady at Sedlec is within walking distance of the Sedlec Ossuary. While it might not make it on to the list of scary places, this church is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This cathedral is noted for its combination of gothic and baroque architectural styles.
If visiting the world’s scary places is your thing, then a visit to the Sedlec Ossuary must be included in your Czech Rebublic itinerary. Visiting Sedlec and Kutná Hora can be done as an easy day trip from Prague—so don’t miss out on experiencing the Sedlec Ossuary, truly one of the world’s unique scary places!
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