The Church of Bones: Visiting Sedlec Ossuary (Kostnice)

A row of skulls in Kostnice Sedlec Ossuary, Czech Republic

About a year ago, I visited Prague for the first time. It was just a 3 day trip – nothing, really, for a city of such particular beauty – but nevertheless I decided to sacrifice a whole day that I could devote to Prague and go to Kutná Hora instead to see a church. Why abandon beautiful Prague for some church, I hear you ask? Well, how often do you see a church made of human bones? My guess is that it doesn’t happen too often… So let me tell you about my visit to Sedlec Ossuary – one of the most famous bone churches in the world.

Sedlec Ossuary in Czech Republic

The Sedlec Ossuary, mainly referred to as Kostnice in Eastern Europe, is a small Catholic chapel located in Kutná Hora, a cute little town just an hour and a half drive away from Prague. It’s a great road trip, actually, as Czech Republic has very picturesque landscapes that look particularly pretty during summer. The town itself, comprising only some 20,000 inhabitants, is quite underestimated and yet it really shouldn’t be – it is actually a lovely place that has beautiful historic centre protected by UNESCO and one more church that you might actually be interested in. Not so eerie as Kostnice, this is a church of a spectacular beauty that is a rare thing to find – it’s called St. Barbara’s Church.

St. Barbara's Church in Kutná Hora Me in St.Barbara’s Church

But of course, as impressed as I was with the beautiful vaults, splendid decorations, and fantastic views, I came to Kutná Hora for a different reason – I wanted to see all those vaults and decorations made of human bones. AND I DID! In fact, I saw skeletons of approximately 40 000 dead people, some of whom used to live back in the 13th century. Can you even imagine that?! Alive then, dead now, today their shins are lined up in rows, their skulls make up long garlands, and their little bones are dangling from impressive looking chandeliers. Even though that’s something very far from being a conventional way of finding one’s peace after death, the atmosphere in Kostnice is very imposing and even magnificent.

Kostnice Sedlec Ossuary in Czech Republic

Sedlec Ossuary in Czech Republic

A chandelier made from bones in Kostnice Sedlec Ossuary, Czech Republic

Kostnice Sedlec Ossuary in Czech Republic

That little angel looking over the dead...

Kostnice Sedlec Ossuary in Czech Republic

There’s something terribly creepy and, at the same time, immensely mighty and impressive about Kostnice. It is as if we’re spitting right into Death’s face showing that it’s nothing compared to the grandiosity of imagination that we, humans, have.

Have you ever been to a bone church? Tell me about your experience!

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  • This looks amazing! Love how you summed it up at the end, that we’re spitting right in Death’s face

  • I’ve heard of this! It sounds really cool, and a little creepy. Love your photos! :)

  • Oh man I want to go here so badly! How fascinating! I love your summation- death isn’t the final frontier with displays like this, and in a way is immortality for those 40,000.

    • Exactly! You kinda feel “above everything” when you’re in Kostnice and ever little bone feel sacred there, even though they’re all a part of a garland or some other ‘demeaning’ construction. Which, for some reason, feels anything but demeaning in this context – hard to explain why!

  • Ben

    Oh wow I have heard so much about this place but I still haven’t had the chance to go. It looks fascinating and creepy all at the same time :D

  • These pictures are gorgeous! What a cool place to experience!

  • Nic

    Can’t believe I missed this when I went to Prague, it looks insane! Looking forward to going back next year so thanks for reminding me about this. Looks a little freaky but a must see.

    • It definitely is a must-see! And it’s also so close to Prague, really, that it doesn’t make any sense to miss it out!