The Bones Church at Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

As regular visitors to my blog know, I’m a big fan of The Amazing Race and of visiting strange places. So you can imagine how I perked up this week when The Amazing Race Australia told contestants they had to make their way to Kutna Hora in the Czech Republic.
“The Bones Church!” I shouted at the television, startling Kitty. Because as any friend of mine who has gone anywhere near the Czech Republic in recent years knows, that’s my favourite travel tip. I think it’s an absolute must see, and was excited to see it there on the show.
The Amazing Race pitstop in the Bones Church
While it seemed a bit strange to have a pit stop in such a special place, with TV lights blazing and contestants leaping up and down on the pit stop mat, I’m glad that more people are getting to know about the Bones Church in Kutna Hora.
I was fortunate enough to visit it a few years back when I was travelling through the Czech Republic. I was flying solo after exploring Slovenia with my friends Sally and Scott. It was Sally who had found the church on an earlier visit and told me I’d love it. And how right she was.
My old school photos of the macabre display
Now I must apologise for the quality of these photos…. they were taken a few years back when I was refusing to step into the future and get a digital camera. While everyone else was snapping away digitally, I was sticking with my old school film camera, printing them out and putting them in photo albums (remember those days?). But I think you still get the idea.
The human bones chandelier in Kutna Hora
For those scratching their heads and thinking “What the?! Are they really human bones?” Yes, they are. The Sedlec Ossuary (or Kostnice Sedlec as you’ll see it on Czech maps) has the bones of around 40,000 people artfully arranged around the chapel.
One of the most extraordinary parts of the chapel is the chandelier you see in the photo above, which features every bone in the human body.
And I’ll always remember this scene of a crow pecking at a skull, again, all made from human bones.
One of the unusual touches in the Bones Church
It may seem macabre, and I definitely would have been disturbed if I found this kind of bony display in the ballroom of the castle of some mass murderer.
But these bones came from victims of the plague, and when the time came for the mass graves to be demolished to make room for new bodies, they were moved into the chapel.
More human skulls than I expected to see at one time

When I visited the church, I was told that in 1511 a half blind monk started to exhume the skeletons and stack their bones in the chapel. Then in 1870, a woodcarver named Frantisek Rint actually put the bones in the order we see them in now.

Standing amongst garlands of skulls and piles of artfully arranged human bones really is something you never forget, and as you can tell, I highly recommend it. It’s an easy day trip (or even half day if you just want to see the church) from Prague.  Even easier if you have a car, compared to my catching local trains there and back.

To check find out more and to check opening hours, the Bones Church in Kutna Hora has a website to help you plan your visit.

For Sydney-siders who like dem bones, but won’t have a chance to get to Kutna Hora in the near future, may I also recommend popping into the Australian Museum’s skeleton exhibition.
It may not be quite as twisted, but it’s definitely fascinating. They not only have a range of human and animal skeletons on display, some of them are set into everyday scenes to make them easier to relate to.

There’s a human skeleton on a bike, and alongside that, an exercise bike that you can ride on to power the skeleton’s one. As your own bones work, you get to see the skeleton’s ones moving which is as much fun for some adults as it is for kids.

Mr Shuffles is the famous elephant in Sydney today, but more than a hundred years ago people rode an elephant named Jumbo at Moore Park Zoo. Now his skeleton holds pride of place in the centre of the room, while fellow zoo creatures including a giraffe look on.
They have the skeleton of a person on a rearing horse, and at the more sedate end of the scale, another human skeleton is found in a rocking chair with a skeleton dog, cat, bird and rat beside them.
The skeletons exhibition at The Australian Museumis found on Level G (just down the stairs to the left of the entrance when you walk in), and then after that there are some more bones to admire around the place, including some rather popular ones in the dinosaur exhibit.
So go on Sydney folk, be a tourist in your own town and learn a thing or two from the bones of creatures big and small. And don’t forget to put the Bones Church at Kutna Hora on your bucket list.

 

About the Author

As a journalist who loves to travel and is fond of a chat I'm oh so happy when I'm sharing travel tales and tips through my blog and on my weekly travel segment on Sydney Radio 2UE. When I'm not travelling or writing about it I can be found out and about with friends, curled up at home with a good book or watching an addictive tv show promising I'll stop after one more episode. Amanda on Google +

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