Sedlec Ossuary: The Gothic Church of Human Bone

Published by in Offbeat
19th Nov 2008

The Roman Catholic chapel, Sedlec Ossuary, is home to between 40,000 and 70,000 human skeletons. These skeletons have been used to decorate the church with bone chandeliers, skeletal arches and large “bells”; piles of human bones with a hollow centre.

This is a close-up of a’ bone bell’, showing the hollow which extends through the base of each bell. These bells contain the bulk of the human remains within Sedlec Ossuary. The bells sit in each corner of the ossuary, a testament to mass human suffering.

This is a close-up of one of the many skull and cross bones within the ossuary.

The History of Sedlec Ossuary

In 1278, Abbot Henry of the Cistercian Monastery in Sedlec was sent to Palestine, considered by the Catholic Church as the Holy Land. He returned with a small amount of soil from Golgotha, which he scattered over the soil of the abbey cemetery.

Because of this pious act, the graveyard soon became a popular burial ground for central Europeans.

A chalice made from human bones stands on a pedestal in Sedlec Ossuary, framed by skulls and crossed bones.

A gothic chapel was built on the grounds of the cemetery between 1282 and 1320. A large vault, or ossuary, was built to house the bones that were exhumed during the excavation process.

A depiction of Jesus Christ on the cross is surrounded by antique bones.

In the 14th century, the black plague ravaged central Europe, leaving thousands dead. It is believed that tens of thousands of bodies found a resting place within the holy burial ground of the monastery. The chapel later suffered a massive blow after a fire burnt everything but the outer walls.

It is claimed that this chandelier contains every bone in the human body and was made from several skeletons.

Construction continued for many years, with a new entrance being added and the upper chapel being rebuilt in the early 18th century.

In 1870, The Schwarzenberg family hired a woodcarver, František Rint, to organize the heaps of bones that had collected in the Sedlec ossuary. In an attempt to give the bones a sense of order, Rint created artistic, macabre creations with the bones.

The Schwarzenberg family coat of arms; created by Rint to honor his commisioners.

Detail of the Schwarzenberg family coat of arms.

Some of Rint’s creations are inexplicable. It is said that he attempted to portray the inevitability of mortality through his work.

Rint’s creativity is apparent in this creation in which he has used a cracked human bone to create the bird’s head.

Sedlec Ossuary in the 21st Century

The Church of Bone, situated an hour’s travel outside Prague in the Czech Republic, in the province of Kutna Hora, is a popular tourist attraction that is listed in many tour guides.

A cherubic angel sits on top of an unlikely pedestal in the church of bone.

The ossuary has been featured on “Ripley”s Believe It Or Not’, and was used as a location for the Dungeons and Dragons movie. Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman visited the church in their documentary, “Long Way Round”.

Click here for a 360° view of the Sedlec Ossuary. 

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  • nobert soloria bermosa

    this is unusual,great job

  • valli

    It is strange…and scary too.

  • Michele Cameron Drew

    Wow, Catherine… this is amazing and spooky. I can only imagine how many ghosts are lurking around that place. Your article is superb and I have forwarded your link to a few friends. :)

    -M

  • Sotiris

    That’s scary :O

  • Michael Degenhardt

    I never knew about this place but find it extremely interesting. Very good article. Michael

  • Sarah

    This is beautiful.

  • Reilley

    I had seen many of these pictures before, but your informative commentary was welcome indeed, thanks.

  • Bo

    I was there this summer! It was really fascinating.

  • lindalulu

    Great article, I have seen this place on tv. Scary!

  • Eduardo

    In Portugal there is also a church like this. It is located in Évora.(http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capela_dos_Ossos)

  • s hayes

    Freaky and interesting – good article

  • Bren Parks

    Excellent Article!!!I love writing about this kind of stuff as well..Great pictures.

  • KcSkye

    Fascinating article. Good pic’s.

  • C Jordan

    Fascinating aren’t they. I visited one in Portugal and they have a very unique atmosphere.

  • Moses Ingram

    I’ve never heard of this before and I’m not sure I’d want to visit. Great acticle though and very informative.

  • SJ Dickens

    A wonderful article Catherine.. and amazing pictures.
    Spooky to some yet also full of meaning. Life is impermanent.
    Shalom!

  • A M McDonald

    WOW! This is amazing!

  • Akilah

    this is so awesome. Love it. I am fascinated by skulls, bones. i want to go there. Be awesome

  • Lucas Dié

    Highly interesting. I think this should have been in Trifter rather than here.

    Excellent work.

  • R J Evans

    Wow! Amazing place! I wonder why Triond chose to put it on to PurpleSlinky tho (a very odd choice if you ask me!). Surely it would have been better on Trifter or Socyberty?

  • SG

    This article looks suspiciously like the one on Wikepedia…

  • Leo Reyes

    Scary but great article.

  • Rebecca Roy

    Though I have seen pictures of this church you did the best job I have seen of discribing it. Liked your article!

  • eddiego65

    Fascinating place! Great post!

  • Anna Ski

    This gives me the creeps, kind of freaky.

    Interesting article.

  • Anna Ski

    I just noticed something real freaky.

    All this creativity means something, look carefully at what he has made, it’s like something real, it brings the picture to life.

  • xam

    scary. wouldnt like ot be there :D

  • Brian James

    Somehow I find the chandelier to be the creepiest thing in that church.

  • Ben Johnson

    Wow, what an amazing place, thanks for sharing with us

  • HatedNation

    What a great article on a cool place, i would like to see that chandelier, that is awesome!

  • Chambo

    I’ve heard about this church Catherine. Freaky as. Very informative article. Well done.

  • Schaller

    truly haunting. makes me wonder what happened to the artist. Did he live a normal life afterwards or did he have some sort of stigma around him. Doing something like this in this day and age would have landed people in jail and/or the loony bin. Great article. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go google this place.

  • Lost in Arizona

    There is an alter located in this church, whereby, when you take pictures of it, bizarre things appear on the film. Some say it is the dead of those who have gone unburied. It is a very eerie and creepy place to hang about. Wonderful pics and article.

  • Rebecca Caitlyn VanGogh

    Europe has a quite fascinating place like this. Even some of them are creepy.

  • TommyP

    Thanks Catherine! Another interesting read! I think I’ve seen this place before on The Discovery channel or The History channel. I don’t think they mentioned the artists name or showed the sculpture of the bird pecking at a skull though.

  • James DeVere

    I love it, Religion without the bs. It shows the true nature of all religions – death. Love it j

  • motty

    Great read. Really interesting, love the pics aswell. One of the strangest things i’ve seen, never heard of the place before.

  • Sasha

    I’ve actually been there before. However, it’s also called the Kostnice Ossuary. It’s a great place to visit, and it’s only a bit more than an hour outside of Prague.

  • Hein Marais

    Extremely Fascinating in a weird way.

  • V-BallChique

    These remind me a lot of the photos by Matt Horwitz of European churches and places- nice job!

  • Dan Eidson

    An incredible view, culture shock for some, morbid fascination for others.

    Thumbs UP!

  • mbirchak

    Terrific article!!Three thumbs up!

  • William L Domme

    And now I feel lighter and enlightened by the story.
    Thanks.

  • SundarRajkumar

    Very different article.

  • spiritwalker

    I absolutely love this piece. Thank you for presenting such beauty in well written article.

  • Siti Zaida Mikaila aka SZM

    No comment! But honestly, horrible the people were not buried?!#$&&&*
    Anyway, come on see Cyberneverty’s articles for instance in
    http://www.bukisa.com/r/cyberneverty via internet HP/ Laptop/Notebook/Internet Shop(Tell your friends, plz!) Your view is precious for us!

  • Paul The Kirton

    Absolutely mad. but has a strange beauty to it doesn’t it! It’s beyond belief how many suffered from the plague. it just shows you doesn’t it. thanks, very informative!

  • Mark Bentley

    Hi, your article was also published on “http://pangsai.com/the-gothic-church-of-human-bone/”. Since I know that he has stolen a lot of other articles, I just wanted to let you know.

  • Catherine South

    Thanks for the heads up, Mark!
    I’ve notified Triond, hopefully they’ll have a word with pangsai and sort it out.
    All the best :)

  • Leslie

    This has really helped me with my ETHNIC PROJECT! THANKS

  • Juliet Christie Murray

    This article is very informational for me its the first I am seeing or hearing about this. keep up the good work

  • Jeffrey B. Merrow

    lots of content to digest good work

  • loilly

    hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii

  • Travel On The Dollar

    This is an interesting post :-)
    – TravelOnTheDollar.com

  • helenDXB

    Reminds me of that piano in The Goonies…

  • emily

    very nice and unique

  • Doug

    thats nasty in a good way, great pics and article!

  • LewSethics

    I’ve seen some of these before, but everytime I see them it makes me shudder.

  • RyanKJohnson

    Absolutely brilliant article, very informative and incredibly interesting. I think I would definately want to visit, what an errily profound experience that must be.
    Thank you for sharing.

  • Anne Stjern

    Very interesting article. I’m not sure I’d want a family coat of arms created from human bones, but who knows. Well done piece.

  • Traveler's Closet

    Traveler’s Closet: Sedlec Ossuary “Church of Bones”, Kutná Hora
    I’ve visited Sedlec Ossuary a while ago(in 2008)
    It was smaller than I thought it would be. but definately worth of visit.