It was during the Easter of 2014, that we visited Kutná Hora, a small city around one hour from Prague by train. Kutná Hora, or the City of Silver, was one of the richest cities of its time. It boasts of a city center presently designated as a Unesco World Heritage Site for its rich architecture and historical significance.
Although a city famous for its silver mines, yet, in my eyes, it is a treasure-trove of some of the magnificent architectures that the Bohemian kingdom had on offer. However, to an average traveler with a hunger for out-of-the-box and off-beat marvels of this world, the uniqueness, and in some outstretched sense of imagination, also the bizarreness of this place lies in the curious ‘Bone Church’ or the Kostnice Ossuary, or better known as the Sedlec Ossuary.
A 15 minutes’ drive from the historic Kutná Hora city center, and situated 200 meters away from the Sedlec Cathedral, this Ossuary is a must-visit place for people with a love for the unusual. Set up in a backdrop which makes you remember some of your favorite childhood fairytale movies, this place offers you a thrilling experience which you would get nowhere else. The Ossuary crypt contains a bone house decorated with 40,000 human skeletons, from people who died of the 1318 plague and the 15th century Hussite wars. The Gregorian chants, aptly aided by the sound of the cathedral organ and the candle-lit ossuary premises add an unusual flavor to the already predominant eeriness of the place.
True to my expectations, the first glimpse of the underground chamber had bought along with it a bizarre and bone-chilling feeling. Coming from a place which has experienced quite a few famines and droughts, and has witnessed deaths and bloody battles, it was unimaginable for me to think of such an artistic and serendipitous conclusion to such a sad history. Almost instantaneously, it reminded me of my grandmother back home in Kolkata, India, and her probable actions, in case she had to visit a place like this. I was almost sure that this was a place she would never think of entering. In hindsight, I could also not blame her for her reservations, especially when she has gone through the pain of witnessing sad events like the 1943 Bengal Famine, the bloodbath following the partition of Bengal and a few more.
After slipping down the memory lane for a few seconds, I came back to reality to experience what was in front of me. And I must say, what I was witnessing was nothing less than transformation of a man’s bizarre curiosities into artistic marvels. In 1870, František Rint of Česká Skalice arranged the bones and skulls into creative decorations and built what stands to date as the Sedlec Ossuary, or, in common man’s word, the ‘Bone Chapel’. Never could have I, in my wildest dreams, have imagined that I would be walking under a chandelier made of human bones, or, standing in front of a Schwarzenberger Coat of Arms made up of every possible human bones I could have imagined in my Biology lectures during my school days, with a topping of a human skull like that of a cherry on a cake.
To this day, when I sit on my couch on a warm summer morning in Munich, sipping a cup of coffee and think of my encounter with Sedlec, I cannot help but think about the creativity of the person who transformed the last remains of a human body into something which would remain etched in the history of mankind forever. Perhaps, it also teaches us to appreciate whatever small things we have in life, to forget the sorrows of the past and look forward to build a beautiful future.
- From Prague Central Station: Hourly trains leaving Prague Hlavní nádraží. Costs CZK 104 approx (If you are 2 or more people, ask for group rate). Trains go till the Kutná Hora město station, which is closer to the town. The stop for the Sedlec Ossuary is Kutná Hora-Sedlec. This is an on-request stop and one has to push the stop button once the train is on its way from the previous station. The journey duration is a little bit more than 1 hour.
There are also hourly buses from Prague Florenc or Háje bus station. The journey time is a bit more, approximately 1 hour 45 minutes. However, you pay less per person for the journey, which is approximately CZK 70.
- Kutná Hora city buses number 1 and 7 connect the town with the train station. It also passes through Sedlec (get off at Sedlec, Tabák and there are direction signs to the Ossuary). Be careful on the weekends, as there are buses only every one hour from the main station. Hence, please do not waste too much time after you get off from the train. Usually the buses leave a short while after the train from Prague arrives. If you miss the bus, there is no other option than to take a stroll around the city, or, take a taxi ride for 15 mins to the Ossuary.