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Sedlec Ossuary: The Gothic Church of Human Bone

Published by Catherine South in Offbeat
November 19th, 2008

Tens of thousands of human skeletons adorn the walls and ceiling of Sedlec Ossuary, a Roman Catholic chapel in a small suburb of the Czech Republic.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Detail of the Schwarzenberg family coat of arms.

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

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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.

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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. 

You may also be interested in: Hundreds of Mummies discovered in Mexican Graves

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  1. Posted November 19, 2008 at 6:31 am

    That’s scary :O

  2. Posted November 19, 2008 at 6:39 am

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

  3. Posted November 19, 2008 at 7:32 am

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

  4. Bo
    Posted November 19, 2008 at 8:14 am

    I was there this summer! It was really fascinating.

  5. Eduardo
    Posted November 19, 2008 at 8:36 am

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

  6. Posted November 19, 2008 at 10:00 am

    Freaky and interesting – good article

  7. Posted November 19, 2008 at 10:05 am

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

  8. KcSkye
    Posted November 19, 2008 at 10:11 am

    Fascinating article. Good pic’s.

  9. Posted November 19, 2008 at 10:55 am

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

  10. Moses Ingram
    Posted November 19, 2008 at 11:37 am

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

  11. Posted November 19, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    WOW! This is amazing!

  12. Akilah
    Posted November 19, 2008 at 12:32 pm

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

  13. Posted November 19, 2008 at 12:56 pm

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

    Excellent work.

  14. Posted November 19, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    this is unusual,great job

  15. Posted November 19, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    It is strange…and scary too.

  16. Posted November 19, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    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. :)


  17. Sarah
    Posted November 19, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    This is beautiful.

  18. Posted November 19, 2008 at 8:20 pm

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

  19. SJ Dickens
    Posted November 19, 2008 at 11:40 pm

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

  20. Posted November 20, 2008 at 12:06 am

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

  21. Posted November 20, 2008 at 1:05 am

    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?

  22. Leo Reyes
    Posted November 20, 2008 at 6:24 am

    Scary but great article.

  23. Posted November 20, 2008 at 8:12 am

    Fascinating place! Great post!

  24. Posted November 20, 2008 at 8:45 am

    This gives me the creeps, kind of freaky.

    Interesting article.

  25. Posted November 20, 2008 at 8:52 am

    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.

  26. Posted November 20, 2008 at 9:10 am

    scary. wouldnt like ot be there :D

  27. Posted November 20, 2008 at 10:24 am

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

  28. Posted November 20, 2008 at 11:44 am

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

  29. SG
    Posted November 20, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    This article looks suspiciously like the one on Wikepedia…

  30. Posted November 20, 2008 at 7:35 pm

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

  31. Posted November 21, 2008 at 4:35 am

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

  32. Posted November 21, 2008 at 6:50 am

    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.

  33. Posted November 21, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    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.

  34. Posted November 21, 2008 at 11:50 pm

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

  35. Posted November 22, 2008 at 12:19 am

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

  36. TommyP
    Posted November 22, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    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.

  37. Posted November 23, 2008 at 8:31 am

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

  38. Sasha
    Posted November 28, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    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.

  39. Posted November 30, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    Extremely Fascinating in a weird way.

  40. V-BallChique
    Posted December 1, 2008 at 3:56 pm

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

  41. Posted December 5, 2008 at 2:41 am

    Excellent article! I blogged it,


  42. Posted December 11, 2008 at 9:57 am

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

    Thumbs UP!

  43. mbirchak
    Posted December 15, 2008 at 9:45 pm

    Terrific article!!Three thumbs up!

  44. William L Domme
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 5:00 am

    And now I feel lighter and enlightened by the story.

  45. Posted January 16, 2009 at 5:26 am

    Very different article.

  46. spiritwalker
    Posted January 25, 2009 at 8:29 pm

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

  47. Posted January 26, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    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!

  48. Posted January 27, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    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!

  49. Posted February 5, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    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.

  50. Catherine South
    Posted February 18, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    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 :)

  51. Leslie
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    This has really helped me with my ETHNIC PROJECT! THANKS

  52. Posted February 26, 2009 at 10:39 pm

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

  53. Posted March 8, 2009 at 3:30 am

    lots of content to digest good work

  54. loilly
    Posted March 30, 2009 at 8:36 am


  55. Travel On The Dollar
    Posted April 13, 2009 at 12:48 pm

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

  56. helenDXB
    Posted April 21, 2009 at 8:00 am

    Reminds me of that piano in The Goonies…

  57. emily
    Posted May 17, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    very nice and unique

  58. Doug
    Posted June 4, 2009 at 9:20 pm

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

  59. Posted December 23, 2009 at 6:41 pm

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

  60. Posted September 11, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    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.

  61. Posted September 29, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    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.

  62. Posted March 24, 2011 at 12:14 am

    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.

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