At 73 km (45 miles) southeast of Prague, Kutná Hora has a long and illustrious history. In 1142, a Cistercian monastery was founded at nearby Sedlec and by the 14th century it was one of the richest towns in Europe thanks to the discovery of silver in the surrounding Central Bohemian hills. Today the center of this charming town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with striking Baroque cathedrals and churches but is chiefly famous for Sedlec monastery and the intriguing Gothic ossuary that stands in the graveyard adjacent to it.
Also known as the Chapel of Bones and illuminated by flickering candlelight, the subterranean ossuary lies under the cemetery church and is decorated and furnished entirely with human bones. Coming from more than 40,000 victims of the Black Death and the Hussite Wars in the 14th and 15th centuries, whose bodies were originally buried in the cemetery, this macabre but eerily beautiful ornamentation was created by Czech woodcarver František Rint in 1870 following a commission by the aristocratic Bohemian Schwarzenberg family. Their coat of arms features prominently among the lacy bunting made of leg bones hanging from the vaulted ceiling, while skulls adorn the Gothic pyramids in front of the altar, swathe the walls in leering rows and languish in orderly bell-shaped mounds in each corner of the chapel. Every candelabra, monstrance and chalice is created from human remains, as well as the nave’s fantastical centerpiece – a chandelier created using every single bone from a man’s skeleton.
Starosedlecká, Kutná Hora. Opening hours daily Apr–Sept 8am–6pm; Oct & Mar 9am–5pm; Nov–Feb 9am–12pm, 1pm–4pm. Admission adults CZK 90; students and under 18s CZK 60. One hour by train from Prague or just over an hour along the D11 by car. Sedlec Ossuary is signposted from the center of Kutná Hora.