Lovely Bones: Visiting the Sedlec Ossuary (Church of Bones)

Are you into unique and unforgettable travel experiences? Do you spook easily? If you said “Yes” to the first and “No” to the second, Sedlec Ossuary might be the destination for you. Just be warned: you will be greeted with open arms.
Thousands of them, in fact.

Stacked BonesVladimir Wrangel / Shutterstock

Located around 70 km from Prague in the Czech Republic, Sedlec Ossuary (Kostnice Ossuary Beinhaus, to be exact) is known to the connoisseurs of the macabre as the Church of Bones. Nearly 40,000 skeletons have been used to create ornamental and religious art that either celebrates or trivializes death, depending on who you ask.

They include:

● A huge chandelier made from nearly every bone found in the human body

● A family crest consisting entirely of bones

● Six towering bone pyramids

● Skull candleholders

● Elaborate bone chalices and candelabras

● Bone “chains” that hang throughout the ossuary like streamers at a New Year’s Eve gala

FeatureGrisha Bruev / Shutterstock

Although the ossuary makes the concept of resting in peace look more like resting in pieces, the atmosphere is both solemn and spiritual. In fact, when many of the people whose bones now make up the decor were alive, they demanded to be interred in the chapel. The cemetery part, at least.

Sedlec Ossuary was established in the 13th century, when Henry Heidenrich, the abbot of the Sedlec Monastery, returned from a visit to the Holy Land. One of his stops had been Golgotha (the site of Christ’s crucifixion), where he collected a handful of soil. When Heidenrich scattered the sacred dirt across the monastery’s adjoining cemetery, it suddenly become the burial site de jour.

ChandelierMikhail Markovskiy / Shutterstock

In what may or may not have a bit of sneaky Middle Ages PR, a legend arose that anyone buried here would decompose in only three days. That was apparently a huge selling point, as no one was keen on undergoing, as the ossuary’s literature phrases it, “the lengthy process of gradual decomposition.” Everyone in Central Europe wanted a plot in holy soil where dust became dust a whole lot faster. By 1318, 30,000 skeletons occupied the Sedlec cemetery.

Family crestVladimir Wrangel / Shutterstock

The chapel became an ossuary around this time, but the Hussite Wars broke quite a few bones in 1421. In 1511, much of the graveyard was decommissioned and the silent occupants were piled in and around the ossuary. By the early 1700s, when celebrated architect Jan Blažej Santini-Aichl was engaged to restore the ossuary, tens of thousands of skeletons had taken up permanent residency.

Availing himself of the loose bones lying around, Santini-Aichl built six gigantic pyramids and topped them with elaborate gold crowns. In 1870 the Schwarzenberg family of Orik, who purchased the property in 1783 after the Sedlec monastery was demolished, hired woodcarver František Rint to complete what his predecessor started.

Rint, as it turned out, had quite an imagination. After bleaching all the bones to make their colour uniform, he created the ossuary’s dramatic chandelier and the Schwarzenberg coat of arms, which includes a raven pecking at a Turkish soldier’s severed head. Even his artist’s signature, which he applied to the wall, is made entirely of bone.

PedestalIvanKravtsov / Shutterstock

Today, the Sedlec Ossuary is one of the most-visited places in the Czech Republic, attracting over 200,000 visitors every year. Walking through the “Church of Bones,” it’s impossible to not be chilled and fascinated. Fragments of human skeletons are everywhere, styled into jaw-dropping formations. In addition to the showpiece chandelier and coat of arms, the dearly departed have been used to create crucifixes, candelabras, and even elaborate garlands over entranceways.

PAGE 1 OF 2
SHARE ON

Advertisement

Travel Destinations to Consider in 2019

Whether you’re looking to escape the cold winter weather or boiling summer heat or experience a different culture, there are endless potential travel destinations for you to choose from. But making the right decision may be challenging. Here are some of the top destinations throughout the world that you may want to consider visiting during 2019.

The Best Canadian Hockey Towns

Canada and hockey go together like peanut butter and chocolate. If you didn’t know that, you either don’t watch hockey or you’ve never been to Canada in the wintertime. Just like any sport, hockey has its hotbeds. Coincidentally, each and every one of the cities and towns mentioned in this article claims superiority. Mind you, in entirely different ways. Some cling to a long and storied history. Others flash around their laundry list of NHL alumni, current Hall of Famers, and future Hall of Famers. Today, we’ll take a look at the best of the best. Lace ‘em up, tape up your stick, and put the foil on. These are the best hockey towns in the Great White North.

Graduated Traveling: 13 Trips to Take After Graduating

While some may be anxious to jump into the workforce and get cracking on that career, as the old saying goes, “you can always make money, but you can’t always make memories.” Instead of diving into the online job ads, hit the travel sites then hit the open road or the friendly skies.