bone chandelier
Sedlec Ossuary by B10m, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Sedlec Ossuary is small chapel, located beneath the cemetery of the Church of All Saints, near Kunta Hora in the Czech Republic. An ossuary is a room used to contain the skeletal remains of deceased people. The Sedlec Ossuary is contains the bones of approximately 40.000 people. The amazing part of the ossuary is how some of the skeletal remains have been arranged.

History

In 1278, the abbot of the Cistercian monastary in Sedlec was sent to the Holy Land, modern day Israel. Upon his return, he brought with him a some soil from Jeruzalem, which he scattered across the cemetery. After this event, the cemetery became a popular burial ground and everybody wanted to be buried in the cemetery which was sprinkled with holy soil.

bone chalice
Kutna Hora – Sedlec Ossuary by carolee mitchell, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

In the 14th century, the black death caused havoc throughout the population, and a lot of human remains were added to the cemetery. The Hussite wars in the beginning of the 15th added another couple of thousand remains to the cemetery. Due to these dark events, and the fact it was already a popular burial ground, the cemetery had to be greatly expanded to accommodate for all the remains.

At around 1400, the decision was made to construct a new gothic church in the center of the cemetery. Underneath it, a chapel was built to serve as an ossuary to house all the excavated skeletal remains. Originally, the remains were all stacked in large pyramid-shaped piles.

In 1870, the Schwarzenberg family, one of the most prominent European aristocratic families, hired a woodcarver named Frantisek Rint to put some order in the chaos of bones. He apparently took his job very serious and he added a lot of creativity to the process of cleaning up the ossuary. He arranged the bones in really amazing pieces of artwork.

bone coat of arms
DSC07858-Bone Church-Coat of Arms by Lyn Gateley, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Arrangements

The bone chandelier is probably the most amazing result of Frantisek’s creativity. The chandelier is located in the middle of the chapel en contains every bone in the human body.

raven
Sedlec Ossuary Bone Church Kutna Hora by Nan Palmero, licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Schwarzenberg coat of arms is also visible in the ossuary. A nice detail here is the raven pecking into a human skull.

Among the other masterpieces are six huge pyramids, two large chalices, four candelabras, two monstrances and several candle holders. All made from human skeletal remains.

As a true artist, Frantisek Rint signed his work. His name is visible on one of the chapel walls, and is made up entirely out of, you guessed it, bone.

bone signature
IMG_3460 by Paul Duncan, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
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