Sedlec Ossuary

Trip Start Aug 28, 2011
Trip End Sep 19, 2011

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Flag of Czech Republic  , Středočeský Kraj,
Saturday, September 3, 2011

I was frustrated with myself today.  When I was mapping out the route for this trip I made plans to visit the Ossuary at Sedlec.  I put Sedlec, Czech Republic into Google maps which promptly stuck a pin in the town of Sedlec just south of Brno.  That worked for me (or so I thought).

It would have been more polite to have asked me which Sedlec I was interested in.  It turns out there are several towns named Sedlec the the Czech Republic and the one Google chose for me wasn't the one I wanted.  We didn't discover the error until we'd driven several hours toward the wrong Sedlec.  We'd stopped at a business with Wi-Fi to check our plans and discovered my error.

We decided we weren't so far away that we'd have to cancel that plan so we mapped a new route and headed for the Sedlec with the Ossuary.  It was small enough that it was easier to set the GPS to take us to Kutná Hora.  We arrived in Kutná Hora, had lunch and asked at a town information center for directions to the chapel in Sedlec, which, it turned out was only about 3 kilometers away.

The ossuary is unlike anything I've ever seen.  In the year 1278, the abbot of the Roman Catholic Cistercian Monastery went to the Holy Land and returned to Sedlec with a jar of dirt he'd gathered on Golgotha Hill where Jesus was crucified.  He scattered the dirt around the cemetary at Sedlec and, suddenly, that cemetary became a very popular place to be buried.  According to signs at the chapel, the belief was that, because of the Golgotha dirt a body buried there would decompose completely in only 3 days time leaving only bleached bones.  For reasons I don't understand people thought that would be a great thing to have happen to their bodies so lots of people wanted to be buried in this particular little cemetery.

With the Black Death in the 14th century and the Hussite Wars in the 15th century thousands of people were buried here.  Around 1400 somebody decided the cemetary was a really good place to build a Gothic church and thousands of skeletons were exhumed in the process.  More skeletons were exhumed over the years and in 1511 the task of organizing the collection of bones was given to a half-blind monk.

New construction was done on the church in the 1700's and, in 1870 a woodcarver was hired by the Schwartzenberg family to create some order out of the heaps of bones and what we see today is the result of his efforts.  It's estimated the ossuary contains the bones of 40,000 to 70,000 individuals.

After some time here Bruxi and I headed for Poland, our next destination.  Because of the time lost in heading to the wrong Sedlec we made one more stop in the Czech Republic at a small familly-run pension.
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Steve Webb on

With skulls being the current cool thing du jour, my sons would love this place.

Thanks for sharing your travels with us, Steve. We may not be able to see the world first-person, but your descriptions and photos allow us to experience it from afar.


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