Sedlec Ossuary: The Bone Church of the Czech Republic

Once upon a time, as all dark tales begin, King Otakar II of Bohemia sent the abbot Sedlec to the Holy Land on a diplomatic mission.  When the abbot was preparing to return home, he gathered a handful of dirt from Golgoth (the hill where Christ was crucified).  He carried that soil back with him and sprinkled it over the cemetery grounds within the Sedlec monastery, blessing and consecrating the ground.

Because of this special consecration, the cemetery at Sedlec would go on to become famous throughout central Europe, and during the plague epidemics of the 14th century, its grounds were expanded to accommodate the thousands who wished to be buried there.

A later abbot had a church erected on the grounds with a chapel beneath it as a repository for the many bones left behind by the cemetery’s patrons.

Time passed, as it always does.  Bohemia became the Czech Republic, and the chapel under the church was transformed into something altogether mysterious and grim.

It was in 1870 that a local wood worker by the name of Frantisek Rent was tasked with sorting through the bones collected in the massive chapel over the centuries and arranging them into something more.  The craftsman worked for years cleaning, bleaching, and setting the bones for display.  He didn’t miss a single detail in his creation. Today, the craftsman’s work is a sight of wonder and awe to all who visit the Sedlec Ossuary.  Looking at the pictures, it’s not difficult to see why.

A coat of arms hangs on one wall.

Stunning chandeliers hang from the ceilings surrounded by bony spires.

He even created chalices along the walls.

It’s estimated that between 40,000 and 70,000 bodies were used to create this macabre masterpiece…and their empty eyes stare at you from every wall.

The detail is truly stunning!

This, of course is not the only Bone Church in the world, but it is truly one of the most stunning and is second only to the Paris Catacombs in size.  I don’t know about you, but the next time I find myself in the Czech Republic with a few hours to kill, I know where I’ll be spending them!