SEDLEC OSSUARY – THE BONE CHURCH

2 min read time • by Fynn Perry

During my last visit to the Czech Republic, I couldn’t pass up visiting this macabre looking place. Just the fascination of why something like this would exist in the first place, was enough to make me want to go see it. An ossuary is defined as a container or building used to store the final remains of bodies when burial space is not available. The Sedlec Ossuary is an hour from Prague and looks like a small gothic church on the outside, but the basement is decorated with over 40,000 human skeletons. And by decorated, I mean the whole place is adorned with breathtaking skeletal displays including a huge family crest made from the bones of the family members and an immense chandelier which is the centerpiece of this grisly display and contains at least one of every bone found in the body.

The ossuary came in to existence in the 13th century. The abbot of the nearby Sedlec Monastery returned from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem with a jar of earth he had taken from Golgotha, a skull-shaped hill in Jerusalem, regarded as the site of the crucifixion. He scattered the holy soil across the Sedlec cemetery, establishing it as one of the most desired burial sites in Central Europe. The numbers of people subsequently wishing to be interred in the cemetery, simply overwhelmed the capacity of the small burial ground. As a direct consequence of this, caretakers were forced to dig up the bones and store them in the crypt to make space for the newly deceased. The bones stayed in the crypt for centuries until 1870, when a woodcarver was asked by the church to arrange the bones with the amazingly artistic and gruesome-looking results that can be seen today.

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