Kutna Hora: The Bone Church and St. Barbara’s

Bone Crossing

In the afternoon of Day 3 we went on my highly anticipated Bone Church/Sedlec Ossuary tour. Actually, the tour was of Kutna Hora, a small town near Prague. Kutna Hora had a lot of silver mines and was of interest to many kings (and Hitler); it stopped producing silver in the early 90s blah blah let’s get to the bones.

The Ossuary, aka Bone Church, aka Kostnice (in Czech) was the first stop. There were mass graves here as the result of the plagues and 15- and 30-Year wars. Honestly our guide was a little difficult to understand (she used “should be” to mean both “should be” and “is”) but I believe the legend is that a blind monk arranged the bones into 6 pyramids  – after which he regained his sight – and later, a husband and wife team, at the request of the family who owned the church, cleaned and arranged the bones. 

Bone Chandelier

It is estimated that there are 40,000 peoples’ worth of remains here. FORTY THOUSAND.

I appreciated that this is a church first and an attraction second. There are signs reminding you to be respectful and it isn’t hokey or playing into the goth/Halloween thing — apparently Ozzy Osbourne wanted to film a video here and they denied him.

Another reason I was so excited about going to this church is because Jan Svankmajer, a Czech filmmaker I like, filmed a bizarre “cultural documentary” about the Ossuary. I thought it was neat to be where he was and see what he filmed. You can watch it above – no subtitles, but it’s the guide giving a tour of the place. This version was banned for subversion and another version with a weird jazzy soundtrack was released at the time instead (honestly I found the jazz version more disconcerting).

“Interesting” skulls

The sheer volume of remains is a little overwhelming. I’m all about skulls and spoopy and Halloween and blah blah but it’s all fun and games at Party City — these are real people who mostly died in terrible ways. Some of the more “interesting” skulls were in a separate case. 

House of Schwarzenberg coat of arms. You can see another bone “pyramid” behind it

The church itself is small and only takes 15-20 minutes to get your fill.

St. Barbara’s

After the Ossuary we went to see St. Barbara’s. We were all like “whatever, we’ll go see this church, it’s part of our tour, pfffffffffffffft” and we were blown away. It’s a little surprising – you’re in this tiny town with very little else in it, then you turn the corner and see St. Barbara’s. 

Inside St. Barbara’s

St. Barbara’s was intended to  be a cathedral but apparently did not meet the altar quota (or something – again, not sure what our guide was talking about) and as such is just a church. Whoomp whoomp. Apparently as the silver mining declined, they were no longer able to work on the church. AND/OR, the family who was working on the church was also secretly mining silver without telling the king and skipped town once they’d had enough.

Stained glass in St. Barbara’s

This is another interesting example of styles being mashed together – there’s Gothic, Baroque, and “modern” — stained glass from the Mucha school.

Stained glass closeup

These stained glasses were pretty good but we got to see THE Mucha stained glass the next day so whatever.  😉 

St. Barbara’s three spires from afar

I was researching online and apparently you can get to Kutna Hora by train on your own, but I think it was really worth it to do the whole tour. It wasn’t very expensive and I don’t know if we would have known to stop at St. Barbara’s which turned out to be well worth the visit!

A fresco in St. Barbara’s by some guy who has probably never seen a camel in real life

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