Beauty in Bones

by A-Badgero
chandelier made of human bones in Sedlec church

The chandelier in the Sedlec Ossuary is the focal point of the church.

In 1278 the abbot of the Sedlec Cistercian Monastery in Czech Republic was sent to Jerusalem and upon his return he brought with him a jar of dirt from the Golgotha, the crucifixion site of Jesus Christ. He then spread the holy soil over the cemetery grounds which resulted in numerous people from all over wanting to be buried there, some even traveled with their dead relatives just so they could be put to rest there. During the 14th century the black death epidemic and the Hussite Wars combined with the increased desire for interment began to overwhelm the cemetery and they were obligated to expand their grounds to make room for all the new interments as well as move many of the bodies into a crypt.

In the 15th century a Gothic church was built on the cemetery grounds with a vaulted upper level and a lower chapel to be used as a ossuary to house the unearthed mass graves that were uncovered during construction. The task of exhuming the skeletons and stacking their bones was given to a half-blind monk who was part of the church order.

There the bones of thousands lay collecting dust for centuries until the year 1870 when wood carver Frantisek Rint was appointed to put the bone heaps into some sort of order. The result, a now elaborately decorated chapel with the artistically placed bones of over 40,000 human skeletons.

The entrance to the Church of the Bones.

One of the most impressive pieces displayed in the chapel is the amazing colossal chandelier which was crafted by using at least one of every bone in the human body. It hangs from the centre of the nave with garlands of skulls draping the vault. Upon entering you will be welcomed by a large Schwarzenberg coat of arms also made entirely out of human bones. Also prominently displayed in the ossuary are two large bone chalices, two bone monstrances (area to display Eucharistic host), six huge bone pyramids, skull candle holders and more streamers of bones garland the chapel.

One of the chapels walls is adorned with Rint’s signature and place of birth, Ceska Skalice written out in bones. The ossuary has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Czech Republic bringing in over 200,000 visitors yearly. The chapel is small enough that you could complete a full tour in about 15 minutes and the cover charge including an extra charge for picture taking will run you about 150 Crowns, which is only about about $8.00 US.

Read more:

Sedlec Ossuary | The Church of Bones

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