The History of the Sedlec Ossuary in Prague
By Angela Garrity, Guest blogger
It’s what’s inside that matters most, right? The small Roman Catholic chapel nested in Sedlec in the Czech Republic isn’t quite the bare boned, medieval gothic church. The Sedlec Ossuary is adorned with more than 40,000 human skeletal remains and lies beneath the Cemetery Church of All Saints. It is also known as the Church of Bones or as the Bone Church.
The tale of the bones arrival inside the church is embodied in history during the Middle Ages. In 1278, Otakar II, the King of Bohemia sent Henry, the abbot of the Cistercian monastery to Jerusalem. Upon the abbot’s return, he brought back a jar of soil from Golgotha and sprinkled it over the abbey cemetery. Word quickly spread throughout Europe and the cemetery in Sedlec became the “it” place to permanently rest your bones.
After the Black Death plague and Hussite Wars, thousands were buried in the abbey cemetery. It was forced to be enlarged to accommodate the great numbers of those who were “dying to get in.”
Because so many people were buried in Sedlec, the idea of creating an ossuary became a reality. The task of exhuming skeletons and stacking their bones in the chapel was awarded to a half-blind monk of the order — and you thought your boss was a jerk.
The Gothic church was erected in the center of the cemetery with vaulted upper level and lower chapel to be used as an ossuary for the mass graves unearthed during construction or allowed for demolition to make room for new burials.
However, it was woodcarver and carpenter František Rint who was given the amazing duties of creating the macabre sculptures that have adorned the church by his hand beginning in 1870. His most notable works include the four chandeliers and a copy of the Schwarzenberg coat of arms, the aristocratic family who hired him to get the job done.
Today, the Sedlec Ossuary is a social media hotspot for pictures and selfies from visitors, but beginning in 2020, a ban on photography will be effective to “respect the remains of those who reside inside,” according to Travel Weekly.
This place gets our vote for one of the most metal locations on Earth!
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