Saturday, September 08, 2007

People do the most interesting things.

Here is an interesting article, in part, courtesy of Chilean: Jairo Frisco Arenas Ramirez which I found quite interesting.

There exists a church decorated with human bones about 70 kilometers east the capital of the Czech Republic, Prague, lies a small town called Sedlec. It might have been an ordinary enough town, if not for its extraordinary church. The inside of this church is decorated with artworks made of real human bones.

In the year of thy lord 1278 the Cistercian abbot Henry embarked on a pilgrim voyage to the Holy Land (Palestine). This was more or less common practice for people of the church at the time. What he couldn't have imagined is the effect a little symbolic deed that he performed would have on the future of the little Sedlec church. While in Palestine abbot Henry visited the Golgotha and from there he brought back to Sedlec a jar full of earth. He referred to this as 'Holy Soil'. When he got back he spread the earth over the Sedlec cemetery and thus the cemetery begun to be considered as a piece of sacred land. The burial ground rapidly became one of the most popular in central Europe and people from all over the country and Europe came to Sedlec to get buried when they felt the strength of life diminishing. Many brought their dead relatives or friends to be buried in the holy soil of the Sedlec cemetery believing that the holyness of the ground was a sure way to guarantee the buried a place in heaven. Many corpses and bones were accumulated this way and especially during the times of the plague (the black death) many who were about to die from the disease came themselves to be buried in Sedlec. By 1318 over 30 000 bodies were buried there and this gave rise to the creation of the ossuary. .
The ossuary is located in the All Saints' Chapel built around 1400. The chapel is still surrounded by a functioning graveyard and if you take a careful look at the top of its towers you will see that that a "jolly roger", or a skull and crossbones, replace the usual Christian cross. The ossuary itself dates from 1511 when a half-blind monk was given the task to gather the bones from the abolished graves and putting them in the crypt to make place for new "customers". The task may seem somewhat macabre and unenviable but it served a practical purpose. A more questionable task than the one of the half-blind monk was the one of the local woodcarver who as late as 1870 was hired to decorate the inside of the Chapel with the human material (an approximate of40 000 sets of human bones) at his disposal.

The name of the artist was Frantisek Rindt and the employer was the Duke (Prince?) of Shwartzenberg. The coat of arms of the family Shwartzenberg was one of the creations evolved from the artists mind.

Another one is the chandelier which contains every human bone in the body, several times over, of course. However questionable the Ossuary - it is real. The bones are real. The feeling of death is real.
But also the feeling of peace. Most of the dead in the Ossuary died a "natural" i.e. non-violent death and the bones were removed from the ground to give more Christians the possibility to be buried on holy ground. It is a fact that the church is not made of bones as so many seem to think. The interior is decorated with human bones but it's a "normal" church made of stone and bricks. It is a normal (what is normal?) Christian church with a Christ on the cross figure and all the rest. It's not some weird cult or Satanist church or anything like that.
I think that next time G and I are in or around Prague, we shall have to check it out.


jillie said...

What an intersting place AND story. I have heard of other places in Europe that have done some "similar" things but nothing quite as extravegant!

Hope all is well with you ;o)

goldennib said...

Wow, that's amazing and interesting.

Anonymous said...

WOW that story was SO interesting! Some of my ancestors would be in there!!!

TLP said...


TLP said...

Okay. The cat let loose of my tongue. If I were anywhere near that church, I'd have to go see it. But it's kinda creepy I think.

javajazz said...

wow, thats way out there.
2 of my dear friends
were in Prague this summer
(and Galen's daughter
went to school there for a year!)
anyway, my friend said it was
a little bit kinda spooky there,
all this history kind of oozing
from everything but it had an
odd kind of i'm not even sure
i remember the word she used
to describe it, feeling heavy in the air
there in spite of some magnificent
architecture...but seeing those
bone configurations, as interesting
as it is, its quite the artistic
statement! but it too, emits
that "feeling"....

hope y'all had fun at the mambo thang!

Outdoorsy Girl said...

This is so awesome! It is a bit creepy, but I totally dig stuff like this! This is now a place on my lists of places to visit before I die! :)

goldennib said...

Are you game? Please play with me.

ECS said...

I was near there but rather than visiting that ossuary, we went to the village of Kutná Hora (right next door). We were there in Darkest December and the thought of being in that church was a little frightening. However, the church of St Barbara and the whole village is lovely, and full of that melancholy that the Czech Republic can do so well, all hung about with coal smoke and bone-seeping damp.

I have to stop now... I'm giving myself the shiveries!

Kingcover said...

Can you imagine that being allowed to happen today. There would be an outcry. Different times I guess :-)

Top cat said...

I agree with the others, it's quite an achievement and interesting but it kinda creeps me

Kyahgirl said...

a bit unnerving to visit I imagine but the story behind it sure is interesting!

sister celtic said...

Oh Lordy Terry I could live like that....This is priceless and just breathtaking if you get my pun..I surely would go if I had the chance. If we could drive there well I'd be packed now... I want to go to the Ice Palace and sleep but Geo. doesn't Oh well sleep in the car...Can I snitch your pics and story...thanks..

sister celtic said...

Oh and Terry I need Sallys address could you e-mail it to me...thanks

ariel said...

My oh my.

But they'd arrested me if I tried and decorated my kitchen with my neighbours...

sister celtic said...

Hiya Terry hey there I'm starting to do our photo cards and evelopes in sleves let me know what you want and they are $3.00 each or 5 for $12.00 plus postage and handling.. Go to my blog and look in the top right hand corner lopezislandphotography click on that and I will be constantly posting new cards for sale plus check my archieves or from your rememberance and e-mail me or whatever to order.. also get your friend interested too give them my e-mail address to contact.. Pleeeeeeze thanks me

Minka said...

Bugger, I ahve been in and aorund prague 7 times and thsi is teh first I hear of it. I find that Chandelier do beautiful in a mystic way. I am gonna check thsi out a bit more...thank you for bringing it to my attention!

neva said...

creepy, yet not. wow, Terry, thanks for the "lesson". that church is really kind of beautiful, in it's own macabre way, and absolutely fascinating! wow. : )

lime said...

that's a lil creepy but what a fascinating story. thanks for the history of the place.

Tom & Icy said...

Mmmmm. Bones!

magdalene-sophie said...

this is a little creepy for me.. but still, i am in awe..


there is such a chapel i didn't know exists..

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I read about this place too. I would love to visit it but I suspect my wife may prefer not to.

jillie said...

Hello there Ms. Terry!! Hope all is well...WI is great ( good as it CAN

Having fun hanging with mom...eating and enjoying some good vino.


Dan said...

The Capuchin Crypt in Rome is quite similar. We spent some time in there and it was really eerie. Here's some info if you're interested. They even have corpses there!

jillie said...

Are you still around Terry?? We miss you....xo

tsduff said...

I'm sorry everyone... had a tough week and not able to enjoy my usual blogging time.

Jillie - Europe has so many fabulous things to see and do - not that we don't here in America, but wow, there is no end to the interesting things over there!

Goldennib - It really IS amazing... and I've since heard from others that there are more places similar to that. I know I won't miss this when I finally make it to Prague.

Annonymous - Cool! Your ancestors are there (in boney form?) ha ha - or just in that area?

TLP - I don't think it is creepy - just eccentric perhaps. I view it more as art - and the rareness of using that medium makes it even more unique.

JJ - I'm always up for seeing every kind of thing - strange or not. That isn't the first time I've heard of a heavy or mysterious feeling accompanying a location though.

Had fun at the Green/Mambo fest. Missed seeing my former pan instructor, but did get to hear some wonderful music. G and I were interviewed for some online organic magazine... it was fun.

ODG - Julie - this seems like an awesome out of the way kind of place to see. Don't know about the bear viewing though :-) (do you bring your own?)

tsduff said...

Goldennib - I love your game, and I am tempted to try it, especially after the winner has encouraged me to play even though there is no comparison to her brilliant work of art!!

Elisa, wow! You make it sound even more worthwhile to see, complete with coal smoke. I have never been to that part of the world, but hope to go on the next round in Europe. Your way of describing experiences is nothing less than amazing.

Kingcover - thank goodness for the "olden" days, when things were regulated down our throats, and there was more freedom to do things like that. It certainly didn't hurt anyone... and is fascinating to see.

TC - Awe - you would fit right in there, being a cat and all... well you might have to roll about in the coal dust first to hide that bright orange hair... what's to creep out about? Dem bones dem bones dem dry bones....

tsduff said...

Kyahgirl: I gon't get the feeling about being unnerved... it truly looks fascinating. Just don't forget to bring your torch, garlic (around your neck) and wooden stakes... :)

Anne, you make me laugh! I want to go to the Ice Hotel too, but that is for another trip. Tell your George that they have lovely reindeer and plush fur blankets to put over the ice beds....

Sal's addie on the way.

Ariel - But it looks so goth. Just down your dark alley, don'tcha think?

Anne - I'm so glad you are putting those gorgeous images onto cards! (You know you'll be putting me into the poor house because I want them all!) Everyone - check out the Lopez Island link in my sidebar, and order your very own beautiful gift cards from Anne.

Minka - How come everyone one and his penguin has been to Prague except for me? I've got to get out of the slow lane and see the world! (Don't blame me though if I get stuck in Iceland on the way) :)

Neva - I KNEW you'd like it. :) Besides, macabre is my middle name.

Lime - if you just slipped on your gorgeous lime dress, and slung around a little tie dye from the ceiling, the place would brighten right up.

Tom and Icy - a doggy heaven for sure. But I think the natives would think twice before letting Icy come in.

Magdeline-Sophie - indeed I'm hearing that there are more than one of these sorts of creations around. See comment from Dan below!

Lone Grey Squirrel - Set up a picnic outside with blankets, and leave your wife sipping a nice glass of wine whilst you peruse the inner chapel!

Jillie!!! I think of you out there in midwest-land with your Ma. Just soak it up, (the ambience as well as the vino LOL) and give your Mom lots of TLC. Mom's are the greatest gift I know. Glad you are having fun - how long do you get to stay out there? California is starting to have it's "Fall" weather... LOL, it hit 59 degrees last night!

Dan - HOW on earth did I miss the Capuchin Crypt when I was just in Rome? Thanks for that fabulous link!!!

tsduff said...

JILLIE!!! I'm here - say, can I join you and Toby for pizza and beer? I'll walk it off later at the reservior. :)

Anonymous said...

I asked Dad with the funny accent and he thinks there is a very high possibility ancestors are there in boney form! Many generations lived North, South, East and West of Prague, even the last generation there (Dad's) were big on pilgrimages and travelling to churches and holy land etc. BOO! HAHAHHAAAA

seventh sister said...

reading this post after the most recent one, I have to wonder how much fun a beagle could have in there.