Skull decoration at the Bone Church in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

The Bone Church

Imagine a church decorated with the bones of up to 70,000 people. Picture ivory-coloured towers and artfully arranged skulls, delicate bone necklaces strung across the ceiling and shaped into elaborate coats of arms and chalices. This is what we discovered during an eerie yet beautiful visit to the Bone Church, located in the tiny town of Kutna Hora in the Czech countryside.

Collection of skulls in the Kutna Hora Bone Church in the Czech Republic

How the Bone Church in Kutna Hora came to be

The Sedlec Ossuary, also known as the Bone Church, started life as a catholic chapel located beneath the Church of All Saints in Sedlec, a suburb of Kutna Hora in the Czech Republic. In the 13th Century, the church’s Abbot took a trip to Jerusalem and brought back with him a jar of soil, which he sprinkled in the church cemetery. Word of this blessing from The Holy Land spread and the tiny cemetery quickly became a desirable place to be buried for locals and European Aristocracy.

By the 17th Century, there was no space left in the cemetery so resident monks decided to dig up the older skeletons, which they stored in the chapel. As time passed, some stories claim that a half-mad monk began to arrange the bones into patterns and designs. What we know for sure is that the Schwarzenberg family, who owned the land at the time, decided to hire a local woodcarver named Frantisek Rint in 1870 to arrange the bones. Rint’s signature, aptly written in bones, is displayed inside the Sedlec Ossuary today.

Outside view of Church of All Saints and Sedlec Ossuary in the Czech Republic

The Beauty of the Bone Church

Rint arranged the bones in all kinds of artistic designs. He used them to build the Schwarzenberg coat of arms, complete with a raven pecking out the eyes of an invader, and constructed grand bone chalices. Rint piled four bone towers in each corner of the chapel and strung ribbons of them around arches and across the ceiling. Totem poles of skulls were positioned in front of an altar, which was lit with flickering candles. The crowning glory of Rint’s design is a chandelier made out of every single bone in the human body.

The inside of the Kutna Hora Bone Church

Collage of pictures of bones from the Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora

Today the Bone Church is a World Heritage Site and one of the most visited attractions in the Czech Republic; it draws over 200,000 visitors to the small town of Kutna Hora each year. We visited on a day trip from Prague and joined hundreds of tourists who’d come to witness the strange beauty of the bone church. The small space was packed during our visit and I found all the flashing of cameras and constant bleeping of security alarms, signalling that someone had stepped too close to the bones, a bit off-putting. It wasn’t exactly the sombre experience I was expecting.

The Schwarzenberg coat of arms in the Bone Church

Skull and baby statue in Kutna Hora Bone Church, Czech Republic

We were also unlucky to visit at a time when the chandelier had been taken down for restoration, but we were still awed by the sheer scale of the bones and the careful thought that had gone into their arrangement. It was interesting to see ancient soldier’s skulls which bore the marks of medieval weapons; healing scars show that some of the soldiers miraculously survived their severe injuries.

Skull decoration at the Bone Church in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

Inside the Kutna Hora Bone Church in the Czech Republic

It’s said that Rint intended the Bone Church to serve as a reminder of the impermanence of life and our inability to escape death. I certainly found Sedlec Ossuary to be one of the most eerily-beautiful and unique religious buildings I’ve ever visited.

Raven pecking someone's eye out in the Bone Church in Kutna Hora

Visiting Kutna Hora Bone Church in the Czech Republic

We took a train from Prague Central Station to the town of Kutna Hora, which lies about 70 km east of Prague. The journey took about an hour and it cost 183 Czech Koruna (CZK) per person, £5.75, for a return ticket. There’s a small tourist office at Kutna Hora station where you can pick up a map. We walked from there to Sedlec Ossuary in about 20 minutes. Find out more information about visiting from the Sedlec Ossuary official website.

Exploring the Bone Church Pinterest poster

Pin me!

Entrance to the Bone Church cost 90 CZK (£2.80) per adult. The church is open every day except the 24th and 25th December, opening hours are as follows:

  • November – February: 9am – 4pm.
  • March: 9am – 5pm.
  • April – September: 8am – 6pm (9am – 6pm on Sundays).
  • October: 9am – 5pm.

You can also visit the nearby cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady and St John the Baptist and take either a tourist shuttle or local bus into the town to explore.

What’s the most unique church or religious building you’ve ever visited?

Like what you've read? Then give us a share!

12 Comments
  • Tanya Korteling
    Posted at 19:30h, 11 October Reply

    Great review!

    Kutna Hora bone church was also one of our favourite parts of our Prague visit. A well worth day trip on the train!

    Loved it!

    • Amy
      Posted at 03:10h, 12 October Reply

      Glad you enjoyed the Bone Church too Tanya. I loved Prague/the Czech Republic and would love to go back sometime.

  • Mustard Seed Money
    Posted at 02:20h, 12 October Reply

    Seems like an appropriate post with Halloween right around the corner. This looks like a very interesting landmark and very memorable. Not many people can say they went to the bone church. Thanks for sharing!!!

    • Amy
      Posted at 03:14h, 12 October Reply

      It was definitely a memorable experience 🙂

  • Gilda Baxter
    Posted at 08:11h, 12 October Reply

    I have heard of this church before and find it fascinating. A great example of creating something unusual and recycling an abundant material. I would love my bones to be hanging down as a pretty chandelier hahaha…although perhaps not for a long time yet.

    • Amy
      Posted at 09:51h, 12 October Reply

      Ha, that’s a great way to look at it Gilda! I wouldn’t mind my bones being made into a chandelier either 🙂

  • [email protected]
    Posted at 14:36h, 13 October Reply

    Wow! This place looks absolutely amazing, really strange but as you say weirdly beautiful. Such an interesting history too.

    • Amy
      Posted at 03:58h, 14 October Reply

      Yep, it was definitely an interesting experience! We’d love to go back and explore more of the Czech Republic one day.

  • Loes
    Posted at 22:06h, 15 October Reply

    This looks so so so creepy! Strange beauty it is!

    • Amy
      Posted at 05:11h, 16 October Reply

      Yep, it was a bit creepy but you had to admire the creative designs!

  • Pingback:10 things I loved about our Trip to Prague - Our Big Fat Travel Adventure
    Posted at 10:55h, 17 October Reply

    […] been arranged into elaborate displays such as skull towers and chandeliers. You can read more about our trip to the Bone Church here, it was one of the most unique religious building I’ve ever […]

  • Pingback:Our Eastern Europe Travel Costs - Our Big Fat Travel Adventure
    Posted at 11:55h, 24 October Reply

    […] of our sightseeing was free except £4.65 each to go up St Vittus tower, and £8.45 per person to visit the Bone Church. The food in Prague was delicious and we splashed out on some dinners with my friend Jo at veggie […]

Post A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.