Macabre memories in Sedlec, Czech Republic
Close to the pretty town of Kutna Hora, an oft-visited town close to Prague and famous for its spectacular Gothic church – Svata Barbora (Saint Barbara), see my earlier post – lies another impressive must-see.
Only two kilometers northeast of Kutna Hora lies the suburb of Sedlec.
While the town is nothing special, it’s a destination not to be missed when you’re in the area because of its spectacular (and macabre) ossuary.
The bones in this ossuary that reached over 40,000 skeletons were accumulated over centuries, with the ‘boom years’ occurring in the periodz of the Hussite Wars and the Black Plague.
In 1870, the vast collection of skeletons was ‘curated’ by the sculptor Frantisek Rint to form crosses, towers, garlands, coats of arms and even a gruesome chandelier.
Doubtless, we’re supposed to spend our time in this ossuary pondering the ephemeral nature of life and the spiritual realm that awaits us all – rich and poor alike – in the afterlife.
But honestly, it’s just so downright creepy I spent more time worrying I might accidentally get locked inside and have to spend a night with hundreds and hundreds of skeletons. If I were a kid in Sedlec on Halloween night, I know where I’d be headed…
One of the most interesting and simultaneously disturbing displays was the noble Schwarzenberg family shield.
The shield was never very politically-correct to begin with, with the bottom quadrant the decapitated head of an Ottoman with his eyes being pecked out by a crow. Guess which shield was my kids’ favorite on numerous castle tours…
Here in the ossuary you get to see the shield constructed entirely out of human bones – including the lucky (??) skull model standing in for the decapitated Ottoman head.
For those of you who may read this blog regularly, you know how much I love history, art, and historical places. But maybe it’s a good thing that some historical art forms die a natural death (poor pun, but intended).
Nevertheless, don’t miss a visit to the Sedlec ossuary when you’re in nearby Kutna Hora!
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