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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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.
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.
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