Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sedlec Ossuary, Czech Republic

I don’t have real cable television at home so I haven’t been able to watch my favorite channel all summer: Travel Channel (I guess it’s fitting, isn’t it? Haha). Anyway, I finally got a little snippet while at the hotel in Las Vegas a couple weeks ago and something really caught my eye. Although this place isn’t a whole city or town or region, it will most definitely spark your interest, whether it be intrigued or creeped out.

The Sedlec Ossuary in Kutná Hora in Czech Republic is a small Roman Catholic chapel. The most interesting and unique part of this chapel is that it is decorated and furnished with the skeletons of around 40,000 to 70,000 people! How freaky is that!

The exterior of the chapel looks pretty normal, like any other church that you’ll cross by. However, in front of the church, there is a mosaic of skull and crossbones that almost seems like a warning.

In the 13th century, Henry, the abbot of Sedlec, was sent to Palestine (then called the Holy Land) by King Otakar II of Bohemia. When Henry returned, he brought back a small amount of soil from Golgotha and sprinkled it around the cemetery in front of the abbey. The word was spread about this act and therefore the cemetery became an extremely desirable site for burial all over Central Europe. After the Black Death in the 14th century and the Hussite Wars in the 15th, thousands were buried there and thus the cemetery had to be greatly enlarged in size.

Around 1400, a Gothic church was built in the center of the cemetery, by which many skeletons had to be unearthed for the construction. Therefore, the upper level was used as a chapel while the lower level served as an ossuary (for those of you who don’t know what an ossuary is, check out the Wikipedia page here). Since then, the chapel and ossuary has been renovated and redesigned to its current look.

In 1870, Frantisek Rint was employed by the Schwarzenburg family to create the current design that you can see today. There are four enormous bell-shaped mounds of bones that make up the four corners of the chapel and a huge chandelier of bones that contains at least one of every bone that makes up the human body. A large coat of arms of the Schwarzenburg family is also displayed as well as the signature of Rint, which was executed with bones on the wall near the entrance of the chapel.

This morbidly fascinating place has been the influence to many films and music. I’m not sure I’ll have the courage to step in to this place, but if you’re up for the adventure I’m sure it will be thrilling!

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