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Do You Know That? Kutná Hora Ossuary

Published: 26.6.2011
Today, we visit one of most remarkable localities which could be found in our country. It is an ossuary in Kutná Hora, a place, where dead legacy of past times meets alives from all over the world.

Kutná Hora, one of most important towns, from Czech historical point of view, is distant in one hour car drive from Prague. In the suburbs, a Monastery of Cistercian Order is to be found. The chapel inside is very attractive temptation for tourists, as its decoration is made with human bones.The ossuary chapel was originally founded as central cimitery building. Nevertheless, a conformity chance made such place from most interesting arguments of one section of Bohemian history. In 1278, the abbot of local monastery was sent to Jerusalem, to bring there a message of King Přemysl Ottokar II. The abbot took back handful of clay from Calvary, a place where Jesus Christ was crucified, and dispersed it it Kutná Hora cemetery. Within short time period, the cemetery got a fame of holy place, where the body rests of not only Kutná Hora citizens but also earthly remains from distant regions, (from all parts of Europe), especially from Bavaria, Poland or Belgium, were put to their „eternal sleep“. Anyway, the story of ossuary itself is joined, first of all, with another event of Bohemian history: The shocks of plague-disease, which attacked Bohemia at the beginning of 13th century, had, as a consequence, more than 30 000 victims. All such victims were buried on local cemetery. Nevertheless, Hussite wars (one hundred years later) brought main impulse for putting of body-rests into a chapel. At that time period, the monastery burnt out. All Saints´ Chapel, constructed on basement of perished church just existed. Its crypt was formed with ossuary, and it begun to be filled in with body-rests, as a consequence of Hussite wars in this region. In general, the earthly remains of 40 000 victims of Hussite wars are put there. This chapel, formed in unique Baroque-Gothic style, bears the decoration writing of an important architect Jan Blažej Santini Aichl. The skulls and bones, all objects of such type, got the chance to be used as an artistic elements. So, such decoration creates gloomy and mystic atmosphere of this frequently visited locality. A moment, when the monastery was closed (in 1784 - by a decree of Emperor Joseph II.) was another important event in a history of  the locality. The whole property was taken over by Schwarzenberg Parentage, Orlík Branch. The works on decoration arrangement of the ossuary were placed to Frank Rint, wood-carver. This person took charge of this task in very radical way. He dipped (together with all members of his family) thousands of bones into chloride of lime. The objects undergone whiten and disinfection process at the same time. From originally six pyramides, he cancelled four, and the bones were used for another way of decoration. These works engaged him for three years.

The biggest interest  from Rint´s works allures, no doubt, remarkable and, in some part, even morbid, chandelier, placed in ossuary centre, assorted from various bones and skulls. Below, on pavement, you can see the entrance into subterranean tomb, where several important Kutná Hora citizens were buried. In front of one from total four bone pyramides, you can admire another Rint´s work, i.e. Schwarzenberg escutcheon, created also from eartly remains. So, the ossuary became a joint tomb for several thousands of persons. Nevertheless, this unique work is not self-appropriate. The crypt is not only as a body-rest place but it serves as a testimony of passed times, emphasized, first of all, with meeting of life with death. No doubt, each visitor would realize a fact of death-existence and an eternity value. Such bones-arrangement in geometrical way could lead all visitor to pensiveness of our lives, leading us towards mutual harmony and staunchness of our own responsibilty, regarding our own or other lives.

At present, the ossuary forms a part of Kutná Hora Historical Monuments finished system: These sightseeings include the entry into several important churches, such as: Virgin Mary Assumption Church, St. Barbra Cathedral and another very interesting building - Jesuits´ Order College. All monuments, mentioned above, are to be visited within scope of one entry ticket, offering the entry into most attractive places of interest. So, everybody will choose the objects according to his wishes.

Ossuary - Basic Information

The object is well accessible by car (via Kolín) or from Prague via Říčany-Kostelec nad Černými Lesy. Railway station is approx. one kilometer distant, and a comfortable walk takes approx. 15 minutes.

The ossuary is open for public daily:

November-February: since 9,00 h till 16,00 h

April-September:        since 8,00 h till 18,00 h

October-March           since 9,00 h till 17,00 h

On 24th and 25th is closed

Entry fee:

Adults: CZK 60

Students: CZK 40


Text: Jan Chaloupka

Translation: ing. Jan Jonáš 

Photo: Jan Chaloupka, Tereza Překlasová

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