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It doesn’t get much creepier than a small church, in the middle of nowhere in the Czech Republic, filled with over 40’000 human skeletons.

If you have never heard of the Sedlec Ossuary (or in Czech Sedlecká kostnice) you sure are missing out on one of the stranger attractions the world has to offer. From the outside, the church looks fairly unassuming, just like any other average small-town house of worship with a cemetery attached to it. Neither the lack of hoards of tourists, nor the somewhat hidden location in the suburbs of Kutná Hora, 74 km outside of Prague, would suggest that this is one of the Czech Republics main attractions.

Skull at the Sedlec Ossuary

Who the heck came up with the idea to fill a church with thousands of skeletons, craft chandeliers out of their bones and hang them from the ceiling like garlands, you ask? Well, of course it all goes back to the middle ages, a time period best known for its unusual amount of twisted and weird ideas. The story originates in 1278, when the abbot of the Sedlec monastery made a trip down to Golgotha and brought back a jar of dirt (excuse me, holy soil of course). This in turn inspired copious amounts of people from all over the place to be buried in this location, now apparently blessed by said dirt.

The Sedlec Ossuary from the outside

Of course, the existing church was soon too small to hold the influx of dead people from all over central Europe. Therefore, a few hundred years later, someone from the House of Schwarzenberg – back then the rulers of Bohemia – had the brilliant idea to exhume the skeletons, instruct a half-mad and half-blind monk to stack the bones, and later, a woodcarver named Frantisek Rint, to craft some abstract and macabre art out of it. Yes, it is in fact as weird as it sounds.

Surprisingly, the place isn’t haunted by thousands of spirits, all of them furious about the unorthodox use of their bones as a tourist attraction. The ossuary, in fact, has a serene atmosphere to it. The prominent chandelier in the middle of the room, apparently made from every bone in the human body, attracts the eye and everyones attention instantly. Apart from the huge coat of arms of the Schwarzenberg family, it is the main feature of the church. In the four corners, big mounds of skulls and bones are piled up and from everywhere the empty sockets of hundreds of skulls stare down at the visitor.

Admittedly, the Sedlec Ossuary is a slightly creepy. But it is fun as well as different and I recommend it to everyone who has a penchant for the macabre and wants to escape the masses of people in Prague with an unconventional day trip.

Tipp:

Make sure to check out the town of Kutná Hora itself. It’s a beautiful little city, full of coloured houses and charming alleys. Kutná Hora ist a UNESCO world heritage site and offers not only the Sedlec Ossuary, but also the impressive St. Barbaras Church and a few other gothic buildings.

Street and houses in Kutna Hora

How to get there:

Finding the Sedlec Ossuary can be a bit tricky, especially since there is a number of train stations and no indication of which one to use. If you’re not a local, it is difficult to know where to get off and where to switch trains. With some wonderful help from a Czech train conductor and due to thoroughly getting lost once, I luckily managed to eventually find my way to the church. And in the process I became somewhat of a Kutná Hora expert.

If you are travelling from Prague, you have to take a train to the town of Kolin, which takes about an hour. In Kolin, switch to the small, yellow two-carriage regional train. There is only one and it is easy to find. If you want to go to the town of Kutná Hora itself, you have to get off at the station called Kutná Hora Město, if you plan to go to the Ossuary, disembark at Kutná Hora Sedlec. Then follow the only road leading away from the tracks all the way to the church. The stations are barely more than bus stops, so keep your eyes open.

 

And here are some more impressions of a pretty creepy day for you to enjoy:

Skulls at the Sedlec Ossuary

The Sedlec Ossuary

Chandelier Sedlec Ossuary

Sedlec Ossuary

About The Author

Tiffany is a Swiss travel writer, digital nomad, and photographer, who, after a fateful journey through Africa, has decided to get her passport renewed, sell all her junk, and live out of a suitcase in various corners of the world, as well as share the experiences with other travel enthusiasts. This blog is intended to inspire you to pack your bags, leave everything behind for a while, and make you go discover the world. Check her out on .

4 Responses

  1. Travis

    Great post. We are definitely going to be heading here when we are in the Czech Republic in December. We went to the Capuchin Crypt in Rome and it looks very similar to this. Thanks for the tips on getting there…very useful! Safe travels!

    Reply
    • Tiffany

      It’s a must. And I’ll definitely check out the Capuchin Crypt if I ever make it to rome. Safe travels to you too!

      Reply
  2. Lily La

    Interesting post, and a very spooky looking church! I’d feel the need to haunt the place if m skeleton was excavated and used to decorate the church, but who am I to judge the decision of those rulers of Bohemia. I wonder if this church got lots of visits over halloween.

    Reply

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