Home » Europe » Czech Republic » The Bone Church in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

The Bone Church in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

This post contains affiliate links. Learn more here.

One of the things I love most about traveling is the opportunity to be surprised and delighted by things you didn’t even know existed! Sometimes the things you are most excited about seeing turn out to be just okay, and those things you’d spent nary a thought on…like, say, a bone church…turn out to be the best.

 

Like when $50 US gets you all this money in Laos, and you look like a totally rich bad ass!
Like when you discover how many Lao kip you can buy with $50 US, and you can do a “rich gangster bad-ass” photo!

 

Or when you realize the Singapore metro system has the acronym "S-M-R-T"
Or when you realize the Singapore metro system has the acronym “S-M-R-T”

 

Or when you realize there is an awesome sauce place in the Bohemian countryside called Kutna Hora, where human skulls and bones decorate a wee little place called the Sedlec Ossuary, creating an impressive bone church!

If, like me, you have no idea what an ossuary is, let me Wikipedia enlighten you:

An ossuary is a chest, building, well, or site made to serve as the final resting place of human skeletal remains. They are frequently used where burial space is scarce. A body is first buried in a temporary grave, then after some years the skeletal remains are removed and placed in an ossuary. The greatly reduced space taken up by an ossuary means that it is possible to store the remains of many more people in a single tomb than if the original coffins were left as is.

 

Yes! Human remains, people! Dead bodies! Today we’re talking skulls and bones and Bloods and Crips. We will get to use Sixth Sense quotes, and make hilarious puns about arms! It’s going to be awesome, so I suggest going to fill up your coffee or tea or whiskey now, because once we start, you’re not going to want to leave.

Okay? Ready?

Not far from Prague is a town called Kutna Hora; it’s a pretty little town with a Unesco blah blah blah…

 

A Unesco World Heritage town square. That's what I meant to say.
A Unesco World Heritage town square. That’s what I meant to say.

 

And it also plays host to some excellent entertainment options, in the event you and your travel buddy can’t decide between a night watching sports or a night at the opera.

 

I think this one needs no explanation
I don’t think this one requires an explanation

 

The main reason for a visit to Kunta Hora is the nearby Sedlec Ossuary, or bone church, where you can see dead people made into clever decorations!

 

But first some back story…

Back in the day (1278, if you want to get nerdy about it), the Bohemian King Otakar sent Henry, the abbot of the Sedlec Monastery, to the Holy Land. Henry had himself some sticky fingers, and couldn’t resist taking himself some Holy Land soil, which he brought back to Bohemia and spread over the Sedlec cemetery. Apparently this blatant soil thievery was considered to be “pious,” and word spread that Sedlac had itself some Holy Land soil. Before they knew it, Sedlec was the place to be buried for wealthy (and dead) Europeans.

 

The graveyard at the Sedlec bone church
Sedlec: the trendiest cemetery in central Europe

 

A few hundred years after Henry’s clepto-rific trip to the Holy Land, shit hit the fan in Europe: the Black Death ravaged the lives of between 75 and 200 million people, and the Hussite Wars saw turmoil and death throughout Bohemia. All that death meant the abbey needed more space for burying the dead; it was expanded, and a Gothic-style church with room for an Ossuary was built in the centre of the cemetery to house the remains of those unfortunate folks whose bones were exhumed during the church’s construction.

 

Outside of the Sedlec bone church or ossuary
Gothic-style; not to be confused with Gangham style (Zing!)

 

A half-blind monk was put in charge of stacking and giving order to the bones, and they remained unimaginatively stacked until the late 1800s, when this guy František, a woodcarver, was hired to make the whole mess look a little nicer.

Say what you will about František, but the guy wasn’t a slacker. He took on the task with zeal, going above and beyond simply making the bones look nice, and arranged them into things like chandeliers and streamers and — pun very much intended — Coats of Arms!

 

A coat of arms made from human bones in the bone church
See? I told you. A coat of ARMS!

 

A chandelier made from human remains in a bone church near Prague
The chandelier contains at least one of every bone found in the human body!

 

The Sedlec bone church really is one of the most amazing sites upon which I’ve had the pleasure of laying my eyes!

 

A bone church near Prague
I see dead people (I did warn you that I was going to go there)

 

Human skulls and bones at an ossuary
Less creatively arranged, but still pretty amazing

 

If you find yourself in Prague with a day to spare for a trip outside of the city, I’d highly recommend a trip to the Sedlec Bone Church. It’s about an hour’s train ride from Prague, and is small enough that you can walk from the train station to the Ossuary (about 30 minutes, max).

24 thoughts on “The Bone Church in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic”

    1. Hi Jan! Thanks for reading and for the comment! Haven’t been to Rome – we went to Milan and Turin over Christmas, but that’s the most I’ve seen of Italy!

    1. It really is, Jessica. It’s a pretty amazing place – we hadn’t planned to go there, which made it an even better find!

    1. Oh wow! I had no idea there were others like this in Italy until all people commented. Pretty cool – going to have to go check out the Italian version at some point. Thanks for your comment, Jill!

    1. There’s always next time, right? Ha ha – I always say that about places. I hate missing things, but figure I’ll be back to most places at some point. I hope. Thanks for reading, and for the comment!

  1. Pingback: Wieliczka Salt Mine day trip from Krakow, Poland

  2. I spent a couple of days in Kutna Hora last year and discovered the bone church as well… so cool and really creepy but I loved it! Kind of a strange little town, but I had some great schnitzel and beer and had a good wander around the entire town (like three times… I had time to kill!)

  3. Well the bone church is certainly an amazing place, I hope to visit one day!! Thanks for a great post an nice pictures!

  4. We made the day-trip from Prague to Kutna Hora today. Thought the Bone Church was out of this world. We also enjoyed the Church of St. Barbara in the town center. This was a great day-trip to add onto a 4-day trip to Prague.

  5. It’s one reason I am seriously considering the effort of making a day trip from Prague to this town. Certainly, the whole town doesn’t seem to be inspiring, with the exception of this church.

    1. Hi Ele! Thanks for the comment! We didn’t have much time so we only went to see the church – totally worth it and not difficult to get to. Looking at other blogs, it does seem like there are some other things to see, maybe in summer though!

  6. Pingback: Where To Stay in Prague: Prague's Coolest Neighbourhoods - Wandertooth

  7. Pingback: Is Prague Safe for Solo Travelers?

  8. Katie
    Not quite sure why the blog started off with the photo of stacks of Lao Kip, but all good. I loved my trip Kutna Hora. The Small Famous Town of Kuta Hora where the amazing, and slightly scary Bone Church of Kuta Hora is. It’s pretty amazing!
    Thanks for your blog! It is … slightly creepy to be amongst all the skulls though :)

  9. Pingback: 6 Day Trips from Prague: Our Prague Travel Recommendations

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *