Kutná Hora is about an hour train ride outside of Prague and the first thing you notice upon exiting the station is this deep and earthy smell. Wandering through town toward the Sedlec Ossuary, you soon discover the source: a massive Philip Morris tobacco factory in full production, spicing the air with the alluring scent of its lethal leaf.
Fitting for a town that houses a bone church.
The Sedlec Ossuary rests in the basement of the Cemetery Church of All Saints, a tiny Roman Catholic chapel dating back to the Middle Ages. Its bizarre story begins in 1278, when a Cistercian monk returned to the region from a recent Holy Land mission. While traveling, he collected handfuls of earth, which he brought back and sprinkled across his abbey’s then-modest burial grounds. As news of the blessed act spread throughout Europe, Kutná Hora became a highly desirable bed for the big sleep.
So a few more royals are arriving in pine boxes – no problem, right? Right, until the Black Death and Hussite Wars devastated Europe, delivering a staggering sum of bodies all in need of burial. Shortly after 1400, the monks erected the Church of All Saints, replete with a charnel vault to store their ever-growing collection of bodies. By the 16th century, the remains of 30,000 souls had been packed into the chapel’s lower level.
Enter František Rint, a woodworker from Ceska Skalice. In 1870, Rint was brought to the ossuary in hopes of solving its, er, clutter problem. His solution? Turn the heaps of skulls and femurs into a macabre display of decorative sculpture.
Rint’s work simply boggles the mind. Ornate skeleton pyramids rise up from the floor; skulls climb the ribbed arch walls and freaky garlands of tibias dangle from the ceiling. At the center of the room, is a massive skeleton chandelier, containing hundreds of bones and employing every segment of the human skeleton.
Like any true artist, Rint signed his masterpiece – spelling his name out in bones. The Sedlec Ossuary is truly a sight to behold. Check out more of our collection of shocking images below.
Courtesy of the Private Collection of Matthew Thompson, SedlecOssuary.com, and Wikimedia Commons