The Czech Republic is a fascinating country, and Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Its architecture is a mixture of gothic and other styles and has an abundance of flavor. The city is full of unusual monuments and statues - some humorous and others foreboding. One of the spookiest attractions is a chapel, a short ride out of the city.
The Sedlec Ossuary is also called the Church of Bones and is one of the most unusual chapels in the world. Imagine going into a church and seeing thousands of human bones. But these bones have been arranged into decorations and even a coat of arms. Perhaps the most famous macabre attraction in Europe is the famed Paris Catacombs with its six million of human skeletons.
The Sedlec Ossuary - Prague's Most Macabre Attraction
The Sedlec Ossuary is not for the squeamish or the fainthearted. In the chapel, one will see thousands of human bones of those who were once living, breathing human beings.
The town of Sedlec is nothing all that remarkable - it does have a couple of impressive cathedrals but little else. The ossuary itself is not that impressive on the outside - there is a graveyard, but otherwise, it is fairly low-key. It looks like a fairly standard old medieval Czech gothic church.
- Sedlec Attractions: Sedlec Ossuary, Cathedral Sedlec, St. Barbara's Cathedral
If possible, avoid going in the sunny summer or spring months. Instead, go in the dreary months of the year on a miserable and overcast day - it will enhance the experience as one walks into the confines of the chapel and through the graveyard.
- Human Skeletons: Over 40,000
The ossuary is a reminder of how there are so many ways to treat the dead. In ancient Israel, it was normal to bury relatives inside one's house; other cultures would leave the bodies out for the birds to eat, the Egyptians mummified them, and the Romans cremated them, while in Anglo-Saxon cultures, an honorable burial or cremation are the only ways to go.
Here it is different. Imagine a large chandelier made out of human bones - it is constructed with at least one of every human bone.
Arguably it is the coat of arms that is the most impressive - it is the coat of arms of the Schwarzenberg family.
How The Sedlec Ossuary Came To Be
The history of the bones in the chapel dates back to 1278. The King of Bohemia sent the abbot of Sedlec Cistercian Monastery to Jerusalem. On returning, he brought back a jar of soil from the Golgotha - known as the "Holy Soil."
- Created: By Frantisek Rint In 1870
As Sedlec now had "Holy Soil," people from far and wide wanted to be buried in Sedlec. In the 15th century, a Gothic church was built near the cemetery, and its basement was used as an ossuary. The bones were stored there until 1870, and then came along a woodcarver called Frantisek Rint. He took his task of putting the bones in order rather artistically.
Planning A Visit To The Sedlec Ossuary
There is a train straight from the center of Prague that takes about an hour (take the train to Kutna Hora). It is the ideal half-day trip from Prague and something that really should be high up on anyone's bucket list.
- By Train: One Hour
- Admission: 160 CZK ($6.50)
- Time Needed: 15 Minutes to 1 Hour
The admission tickets for the chapel itself cost around $6.50, but the tickets can also be bundled with the other attractions in the town - the Cathedral Sedlec and the St. Barbara's Cathedral.
- March through October: 9.00 am to 9 pm (Every Day)
- November through February: 10.00 am to 4.00 pm (Closed Mondays)
There are also tours of the Ossuary that can be booked on their website. Go with an expert guide and enjoy a proper interpretation of the sacred (or haunted) chapel. Learn about the fascinating history of Sedlec and how it was a medieval pilgrimage site. Hear about the symbolism of the skeletal decoration.
- Duration: Approx. 45 Minutes
Email them to book a tour at email@example.com.
Another option is to take a Sedlec Ossuary night tour. They have night tours that take place after normal opening hours (typically after dark). The guide is even dressed up in the costume of a Cistercian monk or nun, and the ossuary is only illuminated by candles. The tour even has a bonus final organ concert and includes touring the cathedral at night.