Spooked: My visit to Bone Church, Cathedral of Assumptions and Cathedral of St. Barbara at Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

A UNESCO site since 1995, Kutna Hora is eerie and full of gothic architecture. Human bones and shattered skulls decorate Kostnice – Ossuary Bone Chapel. Strangely, it is so peaceful to sit among the dead.

We took a train from Prague main station (Praha hl.n.= hlavni nadrazi – main station) to Kutna Hora and reached within an hour to witness the intriguing Bone Church. I was excited to see this cemetery chapel dating from the end of the 14th century decorated entirely with human bones and skull from 40,000 corpses. Some of the skulls were assembled into pyramids in 1511 by a half blind monk who is said to have been cured during the process.

Bone Church, Kutna Hora, Skull Pyramid
Skull pyramids

This place promised sorcery, dark forces and spookes in real life and I couldn’t have missed visiting this place. Unfortunately, we just had three hours to explore the city before the sun set. We had reached Prague the same day from Vienna but didn’t want to miss Kutna Hora Bone Church due to our other plans. So we decided to travel to Kutna Hora and back the same day. I know, we are pretty enthusiastic, when it comes to travel. But we did manage to see the best of Kutna Hora.

Church of All Saints or the Bone Church

Bone Church, Kutna Hora

Only one bus goes inside the city from the station in regular intervals. Therefore, to save time we decided to walk to the Bone Church. We found a local map at the information centre. The Bone Church was just 10 mins walk from the station. But before we reached the Bone Church, we found Cathedral of Assumption on our way. We decided to visit that later. We reached Bone Church at around 3: 30 pm and bought a combined ticket for both Cathedral of Assumption and the Bone Church. The first look at the bones decorated in the ossuary just sent chills down my spine, but the very next moment I was in awe of the beautiful designs created with such an unusual medium. It was fantastic.

October sun was already planning to set and that too on a cloudy afternoon. The church care takers had lit up the ossuary with faint lights. It looked mesmerising as well as a little spooky. The entrance of the church is still surrounded by graves with beautiful obituary stones carved with longing messages. There are a couple of benches to sit and observe. It was getting dark outside. Strangely, it was so peaceful to sit among the dead.

Later, I went to the chapel on the upper floor which was much simpler in comparison to the ossuary. This cemetery was a part of the oldest Cistercian monastery in Bohemia founded in 1142. It is locally called Church of All Saints which was built in the late 14th century. Architecturally, it is a gothic charnel house with an upper chapel and an underground ossuary. The cemetery was extended during the great epidemics in the 14th century.

Bone Church, Kutna Hora, Skull Pyramid, ossuary

Approximately, 30,000 people were buried here. In 1421, Hussite troops captured Kutna Hora. They attacked the church. During that war, 10,000 people were buried in the cemetery. At the end of the war, in 15 century, bones from the demolished graves were moved to the ossuary and post that the ossuary was decorated with the bones and skulls of humans. Its unique decorative items include chalices, a monstrance, a monumental chandelier and the Schwarsenberg Coat of Arms. Needless to say, it is a work of art.

Bone Church Kutna Hora

A major reconstruction of the monastery began in the Baroque period in 18th century. The reconstruction was vested with Jan Blazej Santini who rebuild the Cathederal of Assumption and the Church of All Saints (Bone Church). The ossuary has a lot of Baroque symbolism like cups and monstrances in the niches, garland of bones remind of angelic heads, the pinnacle shaped candle holders remind of the eternal light. The Sedlec monastery was abolished in 1783. The property was hence sold to Schwarsenberg family who still looks after its maintenance. This church doesn’t celebrate death but reminds about Christ’s resurrection. The bones have been bleached and disinfected during the restoration process. It’s about reminding that life and death both exist together in this world.

Cathedral of Assumptions

Cathedral of Assumptions
Cathedral of Assumptions

Cathedral of Assumptions is a rather simple church which has a great history. When the first Cistercian Monastery was founded in 1142 in Sedlec (now Kutna Hora), this convent church was built between 1282 and 1320 as a cathedral, with a gallery and surrounding ring of chapels. It was burnt down during the Huissite Wars and rebuilt during 18th century by Santini. It also holds paintings by Petr Brandl. Though most of the church has been reconstructed, the old remains of the original church is still preserved in the form of stone carvings, stone roof and a few paintings and artefacts. The stair case in the church led us to the old roof which was the spookiest experience in my entire Kutna Hora trip. All through the walk on the wooden panels across the old roof remains made me little restless, as if there was more than what met the eyes. A spooky presence was felt which might have been my figment of imagination. We came out of the church unscathed. But I was a little shaken. My husband said, I should stop watching horror movies, with a dry smile. May be he felt something too. May be he was right.

It was already 5: 15 in the evening and the sun had almost set. It was windy, cold and dark. We decided to proceed towards Cathedral of St. Barbara.

Cathedral of St. Barbara

Cathedral of St Barbara, Kutna Hora
Cathedral of St Barbara

Even when we were crunched for time as Barbara Church closed by 6 in the evening, we decided to visit St. Barbara’s Church and I am so glad we did. It is the most beautiful church in Kutna Hora. The architecture is just mind-blowing. It is so gothic in nature that it can be easily featured as Count Dracula’s mansion than a cathedral. The needle like minarets on the roofs render a unique beauty to this church. The church is brilliant from the inside as well. Made of pink marble and designed with intricate golden Christian motifs and stained glass, this is an architectural marvel. When we reached there, we realised that a movie production team was working on some period drama and the church served as a perfect backdrop of some castle or a fort. Actors dressed in period costumes were running around the property and I felt transported in time.

Inside St Barbara’s church

By the time we came out of Cathedral of St. Barbara, it was completely dark. At 6 in the evening, the city looked quite spooky, depressing and uneventful. We couldn’t find anyone on the road. May be it was the off peak season so not many people were seen moving around the town. Shops were closed. Most of the houses were dark or dimly lit as if no one stayed in the locality. Most of the houses looked run-down. I just couldn’t figure out if it was a movie set of a high octane period drama or real life scenario. We waited at the bus stop for 20 minutes which felt like hours. Finally, the bus came which dropped us at the station. I was happy to reach Prague. But I will never forget my visit to Kutna Hora.

If we had more time, I would have loved to explore the Silver Museum and the silver mining history of this town. I felt that a day trip to Kutna Hora is much better to explore the entire city.

Travelling from Prague on a train is very easy as trains run every hour to and from Kutna Hora. May be I will go there again someday.

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