Czech ‘Bone Church’ at Sedlec Ossuary continues years-long restoration
Kutna Hora, Czech Republic - August 24, 2017: Bone decoration of Sedlec ossuary in Kutna Hora.

Czech ‘Bone Church’ at Sedlec Ossuary continues years-long restoration

One of the Czech Republic’s most unusual and popular landmarks is the Sedlec Ossuary, a chapel in Kutná Hora decorated with the skulls and skeletal remains of an estimated 50,000+ people.

For hundreds of years, the cemetery surrounding the church was one of the most desirable burial locations in the Czech Republic – so desirable that tens of thousands of graves had to be exhumed to make room for new bodies.

The exhumed graves resulted in stacks of bones that were left unorganized inside the chapel. They were left in ‘pyramids’ until a woodcarver named František Rint was hired to do something with them in 1870.

Rint’s resulting work included a chandelier made of human bones, garlands of skulls and vertebrae, and other artistic – and macabre – arrangements.

Now, the Sedlec Ossuary is visited by more than 200,000 people every year, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Czech Republic.

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Maintaining a chapel decorated with tens of thousands of human skeletons isn’t an easy task, and the Sedlec Ossuary has been undergoing an extensive restoration project for the past five years, since 2014.

Work has recently moved inside the chapel’s interior, where restorers carefully remove sets of bones, meticulously clean them, and then re-stack them as Rint did in 1870.

“The bones will be cleansed of surface dirt and then soaked in lime solution,” restoration expert Tomáš Král told Reuters.

“This is a natural method of preservation which was also used during the creation of these pyramids.”

But their work still has a long way to go: restorers still have an estimated two years of work at Sedlec Ossuary before the landmark is fully restored.

Lucas Němec

Prague-based author with two decades experience living in and writing about the Czech Republic for local and international sites and publications. Nakládaný hermelín enthusiast and frequent Club-Mate drinker.

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