Oh, Bohemia. Let me recount the reasons I love you: the goulash, the medieval taverns with their dim candlelight and chive-churned butter and thick bread, the crepes stuffed with boozy plum jam and dolloped generously with sour cream and whipped cream and walnuts. The beer offered in only two shades: light and dark. The spires rising skyward from every corner of the city and the cobbled streets that persistently threatened to snap an ankle. Small winding avenues that all seemed to lead back to Old Town Square. The hilly climbs. The potato soup. The many alchemical symbols painted or carved discreetly into the buildings. The faces of saints and demons peering down at you from every corner. The jumble of tombstones in the Old Jewish Cemetery like a mouth crowded with too many teeth, and the Golem of Rabbi Lowe a myth made of whispers that protected the city for a time.
When I reached the second week of my travels in Europe, and I was starting to slow down from too much food too much drink, I saved a day to visit one of my personal sites of pilgrimage. It wasn’t so much the stories that both Ozzy Osborn and Marilyn Manson expressed their love for the macabre little church that sat on the outskirts of Prague, but it was the mention that when you run out of space in your local cemetery, you can always consider artistic application for the remains.
All forty thousand of them.
An unassuming gothic church on the outside, the Roman Catholic ossuary of Kostnice boasts between 40,000 to 70,000 people. It’s not as staggering a number as the catacombs in Paris, but when it comes to the Bone Church of Prague, you quickly learn that sometimes you need to regard the quality of artistry over the quantity of the contents.
Atlas Obscura credits the endeavour as follows:
In 1870, a local woodcarver, František Rint was employed for the dark task of artistically arranging the thousands of bones. Rint came up with the Bone Church’s stunning chandelier, as well as the amazing Schwarzenberg coat of arms, which includes a raven pecking at the severed head of a Turk–all made of human bone. Rint was responsible for bleaching all of the bones in the ossuary in order to give the room a uniform look. His artist’s signature is still on the wall today–naturally, in his medium of choice, bone.
Sedlec Ossuary at Kutna Hora, Czech Republic
I assembled the few photos I snapped and collected them here. For such a tiny place, it really was jam-packed with the dead (and tourists.) I did my best to keep one but cut out the other, respectively.
There aren’t too many places in the world that can boast a chandelier made of human bones.
I wrote a quick post about the ossuary at Kutna Hora for The Midnight Society a little while ago. Check it out here if you’d like further details.