Just east of Prague, in the center of the Bohemia region, a series of macabre chambers lurk beneath a quiet Catholic chapel. While the scene, a cemetery built within Kutna Hora, sets a somber mood, discerning the interior of the chapel on first guess would be reserved for the deranged. Who could guess that inside these holy grounds, hundreds of thousands of human bones stretch across the walls and atop the ceiling, weaving through pillars and arranged upon the walls.
If you can’t tell, that large dangling mass of arched bone in the center of the picture is a chandelier, made using every single bone in the human body (although several skeleton were used in the process). And look, instead of candles, there are skulls. And if you weren’t sure, those are most definitely real, one hundred percent human bones, taken from the graves outside the chapel. There are even chalices! While many cultures would consider the aesthetic manipulation of bones to be a desecration, the citizens of Sedlec welcomed František Rint, the wood carver who arranged these incredibly ornate and morbid structures in 1870.
While the Ossuary itself was built in 1400, the cemetery had been established for at least two hundred years prior and was an extremely popular place to get buried, if that concept makes sense. The King of Bohemia sent Henry, the abbot of Sedlec’s Cistercian monastery, to Jerusalem in 1278, and Henry returned with a small stash of dirt from Golgotha, which he sprinkled across the cemetery grounds, making them blessed land.
Because the cemetery was so popular, a chapel was built in the center to function as an Ossuary. However, during the construction, tens of thousands of bodies were upturned. While the workers took care to collect the remains, after the Ossuary was complete, they handed the bones over to a monk to sort. The monk was half-blind, and the result was dozens of piles of bones strewn across the Ossuary. Thus, the Schwarzenberg family hired Rint, who took disturbingly great care to create his masterpieces. He even left his mark, for everyone to remember his great name (or, you know, how weird this is).
Panrimo offers an excursion to the Sedlec Cemetery in Kutna Hora, so you’ll be able to snap some photos of this intensely unique architecture. And within the coming weeks, we’re going to unveil some of the brand new excursions and cultural immersions we’ve been arranging throughout the spring. Stay tuned to learn more about where you’ll start learning more!
Special thanks to janeluriephotography.wordpress.com for the picture of Rint’s signature.