Have you ever been somewhere, and all that you could think was, “This. Is. Just. Weird.”A� That was pretty much the train of thoughts my mind haltedA�on when I visited the bizarre Bone Chapel located in a suburbA�of KutnA? Hora,A�Czech Republic.

KutnA?A�Hora was a mining town in medieval times, and once the second largest city,A�only surpassed byA�the beautifulA�city of Prague.A� Now, the town is home to only about 21,00oA�residents, but over 200,000 tourists visit each year, mostly stoppingA�to take a look at SedlecA�Ossaury,A�The Bone Chapel

Sedlec Ossaury wasA�named aA�UNESCO World HeritageA�SiteA�in 1995, and its interest lies in that the Gothic style chapel is decorated solelyA�with human bones, an estimated skeletal amount that makes a horror zombie film look like a fine spring day; somewhere around the remnants of 40,000 to 70,000 people.

Skulls sit artfully by the entrance, a chandelier, that supposedly contains every human bone in the entire body,A�suspends from the ceiling, and a the Schwarzenberg familyA�Coat of Arms, lays claim to an entire wall.

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Coat of Arms

How did this come to be and why would someone createA�theA�macabre displayA�of mortality?

Around 1400,A�The OssauryA�was built inA�the center of the cemetery, and over the following centuries, the bones of individuals were placed in the chapel, as the cemeteryA�was so overcrowded that bodies were buried six deep.A� In 1870, the SchwarzenbergA�family, Bohemian aristocrats who had way too much extra money collecting dust in all of their fancy castles, hired FrantiA?ekA�RintA�as chief interior designer, specifically employed to put the Chapel’s pile of bones into order.A� And so he did.

 

Kutna Hora Bone Chapel

There was a repulsive feelA�to the chapel, as if it was an invasion of someone’s personal privacy.A� I stared atA�what was once someone’s mother, someone’s husband, someone’s child.A� Now, pulled together by wires, specifically so that people can gawk and awe, passing by as ifA�the breath of life neverA�mattered,A�and the realities of death are to be turned into trivialities.A� After visiting museums acknowledging the horrors of the Holocaust, memorials honoring those that suffered and died, and walking through Auschwitz-Berkanau, Kutna Hora felt cheap.

The memorials of the Holocaust, intense and emotionally draining to visit, brings the experiences of millions, into a place of reverence and connectedness, byA�honoring the life andA�death ofA�individuals through story.A� Auschwitz, disgusting, because it was fueled and encompassed byA�extreme hate, Kutna Hora, disgusting because ofA�the simple objectification of human life.A� It doesn’t feel right.

Where does one cross the line between art and invasion of privacy?A� Isn’t death aA�private experience, to be honored by those close, remembering the beauty of an individual’s life, not by someone thatA�can by a ticket for 10 euro?A� Where is the balance between appropriate acknowledgment and inappropriate voyerism?A�A�Can an interesting connection be made toA�ourA�societal obsession with reality television?

For the predominately atheisticA�country of the Czech Republic, Kutna Hora Bone Chapel is a reminder to the citizensA�of the fragilityA�andA�finality of life.A� That we must celebrate the moments we have, and live whenA�we can because someday, we will only be a pile of bones.

After saying all of that, I still recommend visiting Kutna Hora, as the experience encourages thought.A� Kutna Hora is only a fifty minute train ride from Prague, and there are many tours available for those that want some history or, if you prefer, you can visit solo.

For more information check out the following links:

History of Sedlec Ossuary

Sandeman’sA�Kutna Hora Tour

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