Kutna Hora is about 85km from Prague and definitely warrants a day trip. Together with friends Gena and Chris we took a train to this town which boasts a number of sights including the famous ‘Bone Church’ aka The Sedlec Ossuary. This was a pretty crazy place to see! The whole underground chapel is decorated with human bones.
40,000 people have their resting place here!! The reason being that around 1278 a local abbot went to Jerusalem and brough back some soil which he scattered here over the cemetery. People considered the place somehow sacred and came from all over to be buried here. Then after big epidemics in the 14th century the cemetery was extended and 30,000 people were buried here. In 1421 Hussite troops invaded and captured Kutna Hora leading to a further 10,000 people being killed and buried here.
In the 15th century the cemetery was reduced a little and the bones were removed and placed in the Ossuary. The legend goes that a blind monk at this time arranged the bones and skulls into pyramids and then regained his sight. In any case the bones were certainly in place by 1630. In the early 18th century there was a major reconstruction of the monastery, undertaken by the Baroque architect Santini, who is also credited with much of the Baroque style bone decorations…bone candle holders, cups, monstrances and garlands. There are four bone pyramids in the Ossuary which each have a wooden carved crown atop to represent Christ’s triumph over death.
From the outside the church above is nothing special, although the skulls at the top point to the unique ossuary under the church. There was a guy digging right outside the church and lots of skeletons and bones to be seen!!
After seeing this unique place we headed to the first of the UNESCO listed churches, Cathedral of Assumption of our Lady and Saint John the Baptist (quite a mouthful!). The cathedral is part of the former Cistercian monastery that was established by King Wenceslas II in the early 1300s when Kutná Hora experienced great wealth thanks to silver mining. The cathedral was built in the High Gothic style. The monastery along with the church were burned down by the Hussites in 1421 and were not renovated until the early 18th century. Santini must have been a busy guy as he rebuilt this cathedral too. It combines Gothic and Baroque styles which is rather unique. The Cistercian monastery, by then deeply in debt, was closed down in 1783 and in 1812 a tobacco factory was established there.
We took a bus to the main part of Kutna Hora and had a nice wander around the town and some lunch. We spotted the late Gothic fountain created as part of the Kutna Hora early water distribution system around 1495, a lot of nice buildings and the St James Church.
From St James Church there were good views of the UNESCO listed Cathedral of St Barbara. This Cathedral and the walk up to it were wonderful, along a wide boulevard with statues all the way along and views out across the valley.
So many things inside the church that were fascinating! The card you get at the entrance guides you around the interesting points and provides some useful information. Construction started in 1388.
I loved the four wooden statues that are in the upper church, representing the four Christian virtues; Justice, Fortitude, Prudence, and Temperance. They are from the early 17th century and are 3.5m tall.
The views from up here looking down were great and the upper church also provided great views of the organ and the angels playing musical instruments etc.
After taking photos outside the cathedral we found somewhere to have a drink then waited for the bus to the train station. We headed home tired but happy after a great day out and finished off our time together celebrating Gena’s birthday (belatedly) with a nice meal out.
After saying goodbye to Gena & Chris in Prague, we headed away to a Golf Resort for an Angloville week with Czech participants who wanted to converse with native English speakers to improve their language skills. (More on Angloville in a post to come.) Following this, we returned to Prague and stayed with my Kyrgyz friend Gazi and her family. That week her nephew from Kyrgyzstan had arrived and we took him with us when we went to see Karlstejn Castle, about 30km southwest of Prague.
The castle, built in 1348, is one of the most visited castles in the Czech Republic. It sure looked pretty impressive up on the hill but we didn’t pay the fee to go inside.
Instead we decided to go for a walk and headed further up the hill and into the trees. We found a good spot from which to take pictures looking down on the castle then headed back into the small town for lunch.
Curiously in the restaurant there was a parrot above our table. The food was good but took an absolute age to arrive! A nice day out too.