Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Sedlec Ossuary

One of the creepiest places I’ve ever heard of is in Sedlec, a suburb of the Czech city of Kutná Hora: The Sedlec Ossuary.

The ossuary is part of the Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady and St. John the Baptist. Below the cemetery of the Church of All Saints is a small Roman Catholic chapel, the interior of which is completely decorated with human bones.

A cemetery was first founded here in the Middle Ages and became famous in 1278 when the abbot from Sedlec went on a diplomatic mission to the Holy Land under orders from King Otakar II. The abbot returned with a small handful of dirt from the hill where Christ is believed to have been crucified. He sprinkled the dirt in the cemetery and the place was soon known throughout Europe.

During the 14th century, it became necessary to enlarge the cemetery because of the plagues. By 1318, it’s estimated that 30,000 people were buried there. After 1400, the chapel was built in the middle of the graveyard. Under the chapel, the bones from abolished graves were arranged by monks. This continued until 1870 when a local wood carver named František Rint was employed by the ruling Schwarzenberg family to rearrange the bones in a more attractive manner.

Rint outdid himself. The ossuary now contains the remains of an estimated 40,000 people. Their bones cover the interior, arranged in decorative patters. Sometimes the bones are used to form planters, candelabras or coats of arms of the royal family. In one particularly gruesome feature, a chandelier hangs at the center of the ossuary. The chandelier contains every bone in the human body, delicately arranged in macabre patterns, using various bones to form creepy crystal-like patterns.



Visit the chapel’s website here: http://www.kostnice.cz/

-Rex Fuller, Opera Colorado Director of Marketing

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