The Bones of Kutna Hora

So there is this place called Kutna Hora, about an hour by train outside of Prague. It was a sleepy little town until a monk came across some silver ore just lying there on the ground. The town woke up fast. There was a silver rush, the king took notice and a mint was built there. Kunta Hora rapidly became the financial center of the Czech kingdom. But the town eventually fell on hard times. The silver ran out. The mint shut down. The plague swept through not once, not twice, but thirty freaking times. The Swedes came a’calling during a little religious spat called the 30 Years War, raping and pillaging, as Swedes tend to do (I kid our blonde brothers to the North. Kind of. Apparently, they were quite the busy little ransacking rascals back in the day. They looted the hell out of the Czech empire, taking all kinds of stuff that didn’t belong to them and that they still haven’t given back to this day. What the hell, Sweden? But I digress…) All of this warring and killing and plague-ing (yeah, sure, it’s a word) left behind a lot of bodies, which over time became a lot of bones.

You see, Kutna Hora is back to being a sleepy little town now, but it has this unique feature that really got my attention. All those bones ended up at a little place called the Kostnice Sedlec Ossuary, commonly referred to as the Bone Chapel. Back in the mid-19th century, the family that owned the Bone Chapel decided that the place needed a facelift, so they hired a truly “out-of-the-box” thinker named Franisek Rint to spruce the place up. This demented visionary took a look around, saw the earthly remains of 40,000 dead souls and decided he had found his medium, his oeuvre, so to speak. He would decorate in bone. The human body has about 200 of them, meaning he had more than eight million bones to work with. He made a bone chandelier. Bone candelabras. A bone coat of arms. He hung them on the wall. He hung them from the ceiling. He used them to frame windows and doorways. The bones he didn’t use, he neatly stacked in four huge orderly mounds at least 10 feet high. And of course, he signed his creation as any artist would, on the wall, in bone. “Macabre” doesn’t begin to describe it. So if you find yourself in or around Prague, make some time to stop by the Bone Chapel. Maybe ponder the transient nature of our existence here on Earth, and what we leave behind. Or if you are not inclined towards Hamlet-styled self-reflection, then just go to see what you can do with a human skeleton and a little imagination. Pics from my visit are here…

Finally, many thanks to my awesome guide Amy and the crew at Sandeman Tours for taking me on the tour of Kutna Hora. No, I’m not being compensated of this blurb. I just want to spread the word. I’ve taken their tours in several cities in Europe now. They have always been informative, laced with humor and quite reasonably priced.

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