Kutná Hora

Kostnice (Charnel house)

Can you imagine more bizarre decoration than a lustre that is made of human bones, or an ornament from human blade-bones or huckle-bones? It is really a strange place. Nearly every day buses carry hundreds of living scaffolds, that watch this place with great interest and look on their elegantly aligned fellows. This is how it looks under the x-rays of the eternity. Kostnice is unique.

KostniceIts foundation is bounded with the story of abbot Heidenreich, who went to Jerusalem in 13th Century. From there he brought a bit of saint soil. During the ceremony he scaterred the soil on the local cemetery which turned to a place full of miracles. Sedlec then was sought by many pilgrims and christians from Poland, Bavaria and Belgium, who wanted to be burried there. Being burried in Sedlec ment being closer to the ressurection, so it is normal that many people were concerned in being burried there. Thirty thousands victims of black death and many hussites were added to the local corpses. So there had been more than enought material for the decoration.

Since the 16th Century bones were used as a decoration, but the final appearence was made by baroque architect Jan Blažej Santini. He took advantage of the lay-out of the building and he put a stress on its allegoric meaning. He placed crowns symbolising God´s kingdom over pyramids consisting of more than 40thousand bones. There are four obelisks that mean the same as four beams of light in the dark night – a hope. It seems as a hardly believable story today. To speak about a hope in the cemetery is absurd. However, the Sedlec cemetery Kostniceis a place, where the miracle is awaited and the whole building is meant as an allegory of this miracle. You may find a chapel symbolising victory over the death placed over the charnel house, so corpses below are just waiting as they rise up from the dead. The sacred soil brought there by abbot Heidenreich was from the place where Jesus was crucified. As Christians believe, Jesus  put an end to the death, so being near to the sacred soil meant the same as being near to Christ and thus being near to redemption.

When looking on the festoonery of skulls and shins one would hardly imagine how the redemption would look like. Would a foot from the lustre get to its huckle hanging on the ceiling? Even in the medieval and baroque era people thought in that way, so rich burghers were rather burried as a whole corpse. Only poor and unknown corpses were used as a decoration. Images of ressurected dead ones varied, but they had one thing in common – they were just fables and allegories. The ressurection itself was in full competence of Christ.

KostniceThe last changes of the charnel house were done by wood-carver František Rint in the 19th Century. He is an author of the bony lustre, Schwarzenberg coat of arms and other changes. He filled walls and vaults with skulls with crossbones and he hanged some bones on display. His works in charnel house are one of the most elaborate ones but also they are somehow incompatible with the overall symbolics of the building. Symbolics of death totally overweighted the former symbolics connected with the chapell above. It seems as if the Christmas were celebrated in the cemetery after Rinton´s changes. But the fact that the ressurection is being celebrated in Kostnice remains.

Information

Kostnice is opened daily: 
November - February  9am - 4pm
April - September   8am - 6pm
October, March   9am - 5pm
Ossuary is closed on 24th and 25th December

Entrance fee befor 1st April 2013
Adults 60,- Kč
Students and children 40,- Kč 

Entrance fee from 1st April 2013
Adults 90,- Kč
Students and children 60,- Kč

KOSTNICE SEDLEC
Zámecká 127, 284 03 Kutná Hora - Sedlec
phone: +420 326 551 049
e-mail: ic@sedlec.info

Public relations: Jiri Arnet
phone: +420 327 561 143
mobil phone: +420 731 402 307
e-mail: arnet@sedlec.info

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