The Church of the Dead

Ossuaries and catacombs are far from uncommon in Europe. In May 2011, we were on our way to visit one of the most unusual ossuaries in Europe, if not on the planet, which required a two-hour train ride out of Prague.

David Manley , the owner of Go Real Europe, helped us specialize our trip so we could visit the final resting place of tens of thousands of victims of the Black Plague and the Hussite Wars. This was a must-see stop for us and David arranged for a personal tour guide to lead us from our Prague hotel to the small Czech town of Kutná Hora. Once we arrived, we made a stop at the Cathedral of Assumption of Our Lady and St. John the Baptist, a restored Catholic church rebuilt on the site of a Cistercian abbey.

A very short walk from the cathedral led us to the Sedlec Ossuary. The grounds contain a cemetery similar to most churches that are marked on tourist maps.  This small Roman Catholic church is modest in design compared to the gothic and baroque church next door; however, there is no secret about what is found inside once you reach the front gate.

As soon as you enter the building you are greeted by bones. Skulls and leg bones adorn the ceilings and walls throughout. Bone crests and bone chandeliers are found everywhere. Stairs lead the way down to the main hall. Above you is a balcony lined with skulls and femurs.

On the lower floor, visitors are able to see all of the creative ways bones have been arranged to decorate the chapel. Most of the bone arrangements are the work of František Rint.  Rint’s work took place around the year 1870. Some of his touches include the chandelier that contains every bone from the human body. His name can also be found on one particular wall arrangement.


The lower floor is much darker and can be described the way most people who have visited catacombs would describe. Here you will find the vault that contains hundreds of remains that were not incorporated into the design of the building.

The upper level has been used as a chapel and has some of the baroque characteristics common with Czech churches. What sets this chapel apart from others is the display of bones throughout.

The cemetery on the chapel grounds contain the graves of wealthy Czechs who wished to be buried where the abbot of Sedlec scattered dirt from the Holy Land upon his return from a diplomatic mission.

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