Sedlec Ossuary – Macabre Magnificence

A bone chalice in the entryway to the ossuary
A bone chalice in the entryway to the ossuary

In defiance of an Adjective

If you travel to the Central Bohemian city of Kutná Hora, a visit to the Sedlec Ossuary is almost obligatory as it is one of that city’s main claims to fame. Located in a suburb of the city, it is not at all difficult to access.

Once inside the ossuary, which is located below a small Gothic church in the Sedlec cemetery, you’ll most likely be left struggling for the right word to describe the scene that surrounds you there. “Incredible”, “Amazing”, “Bizarre” are all words which might come to mind; but when the gravity of the fact that you’re in a room with the remains of around than 40,000 people hits you, you’ll probably just remain speechless.

The Beginnings

Altarpiece in the ossuary
Altarpiece in the ossuary

In the 12th century, a Cistercian monastery was established in in Sedlec. In the late 13th century, the abbot of Sedlec returned from a mission to the holy land and brought back some soil from Golgotha to distribute on the grounds of the cemetery; consequently, the cemetery became very famous and many people requested burial there. An inevitable series of enlargements were made to the cemetery, initially due to the popularity of the cemetery, but later attributable to the plague epidemics of the 14th century and the Hussite Wars of the early 15th century.

The church and associated chapel which became home to the ossuary were built around 1400 and the task of exhuming abolished graves and placing the bones in the chapel began in 1511. Since then, the ossuary has been subject to two remodelings, one in the early 1700s and again in 1870. The current arrangement of bones comes from the 1870 renovation.

Bones, bones and more bones.
Bones, bones and more bones.

Visiting and Learning More

The ossuary is open year round, but the opening hours are variable upon the time of year.

It should be kept in mind that this is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Czech Republic. As such, some waiting should be expected if you visit in the high season.

To learn more about the ossuary and the particulars of visiting it, follow this link:

Interior view of ossuary
Interior view of ossuary

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