The Sedlec Ossuary (kostnice Sedlec) a small Christian chapel, is located beneath the Church of All Saints (Hřbitovní kostel Všech Svatých) in Sedlec, a suburb of Kutná Hora in the Czech Republic.
The ossuary of the "Bone Church," as it is popularly known, contains approximately 40,000 human skeletons which have been artistically arranged to form decorations and furnishings for the chapel.
History of Sedlec Ossuary
Henry, the abbot of the Cistercian monastery in Sedlec, was sent to the Holy Land by King Otakar II of Bohemia in 1278. When he returned, he brought with him a small amount of earth from Golgotha, where Christ was crucified, and sprinkled it over the abbey cemetery.
The presence of earth from the Holy Land in Sedlec soon spread and the cemetery became a highly desirable burial site for the faithful throughout Central Europe. During the Black Death in the mid 14th century and after the Hussite Wars in the early 15th century, thousands of people were buried there and the cemetery had to be greatly enlarged.
Around 1400 a Gothic church, the Church of All Saints, was built in the center of the cemetery. It had a vaulted upper level and a lower chapel to be used as an ossuary for the mass graves unearthed during construction.
After 1511 the task of exhuming skeletons and stacking their bones in the chapel was, according to legend, given to a half-blind monk of the order.
Between 1703 and 1710 a new entrance was constructed to support the front wall, which was leaning outward, and the upper chapel was rebuilt. This work, in the Czech Baroque style, was designed by Jan Santini Aichel.
In 1870, František Rint, a woodcarver, was employed by the Schwarzenberg family to put the boneheaps into order. The results of his efforts speak for themselves.
What to See at Sedlec Ossuary
Four enormous bell-shaped mounds of bones occupy the corners of the chapel. An enormous chandelier of bones hangs from the center of the nave with garlands of skulls draping the vaults.
Other works include piers and monstrances flanking the altar, a large Schwarzenberg coat-of-arms (including a bird skeleton pecking at the eye socket of a human skull), and the signature of Master Rint, also executed in bone, on the wall near the entrance.
Similar ossuary chapels elsewhere include the Catacombe dei Cappuccini in Parlermo, Sicily, and the Capella dos Ossos ("Bone Chapel") in Evora, Portugal. For other macabre sacred sites, see our Dead on Display category.
Sedlec Ossuary is accessible by train from Prague (about 45 miles away). Buy a return ticket to Kutna Hora at the Prague train station. Change trains at Kolin after about 45 minutes, then it is about 10 minutes more to Kutna Hora.
In Kutna Hora, take a right out of the station and walk towards the main elevated road. Take a left and follow the road until you hit the first major church; take a right on a small side road directly opposite this church. From there it is a short and direct walk to All Saints Chapel (Hřbitovní kostel Všech Svatých).
Quick Facts on Sedlec Ossuary
|Names:||Bone Church · Kostnice · Sedlec Ossuary|
|Dates:||1400; bone decoration 1870|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||49.961794° N, 15.288253° E|
Kutna Hora, Czech Republic
|Phone:||327-512-378 (Kutna Hora tourist information)|
|Hours:||Apr-Sep: Mon-Sat 9am-5pm|
Oct: Mon-Sat: 9am-noon, 1-5pm
Nov-Mar: by reservation only (see official website)
|Lodging:||View hotels near Sedlec Ossuary|
- Sedlec Ossuary - Wikipedia
- Kostnice Ossuary - official site
- Kostnice (Church of Bones) - Art Graphica
- The Sedlec Ossuary - whatsonwhen.com
- Sedlec Ossuary Page
- Sedlec Pictures - Slackertravel
- Prague Side Trips: Kutna Hora - Frommer's
- Kutna Hora Map - Frommer's
Map of Sedlec Ossuary, Kutna Hora
Below is a location map and aerial view of Sedlec Ossuary. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.