Sunday, March 16, 2014

Tales from the Crypt: Sedlec Ossuary

Image source: Comic Book Daily

The Sedlec Ossuary resides beneath the Roman Catholic Cemetery Church of All Saints in Kutná Hora, Czech Republic. The Ossuary is only home to 40-70,000 skeletons (a tiny blip compared to the 6 million in the Catacombs of Paris) but this Ossuary gets an E for effort. As one of the most visited attractions in the Czech Republic, this small town an hour's drive west of Prague attracts over 200,000 visitors yearly.

"The Church of Bones" first gained notoriety in 1278, when the abbot of the monastery in Sedlec was sent to the "Holy Land" by the King of Bohemia. The abbot returned with a small amount of soil he had removed from Golgotha (the area where Jesus was crucified a.k.a. "Holy Soil") and sprinkled it on the abbey cemetery. Once that happened, being buried in the Sedlec cemetery became a hot commodity.

After the devastating Black Death and the Hussite Wars of the 14th and 15th centuries, there was an influx of burials at the cemetery. To make room, a Gothic church equipped with a lower level ossuary was erected and the extra-dead bodies were exhumed and stacked inside. Hundreds of years later, the Schwarzenberg family (the aristocratic landowners of the area) hired woodcarver and carpenter, František Rint, to organize the bones.

Rint artistically arranged the bones into four bell-shaped mounds occupying the corners of the chapel, a Schwarzenberg family coat of arms (which includes a raven pecking at the head of an invader), a chandelier (which contains at least one of every bone in the body), goblets, a skull candelabra, garland hanging from the ceiling, and Rint's own signature, made exclusively out of finger bones.

Image sources: Sedlec Ossuary and Wikipedia

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