Macabre Photos Of The Church Where The Dead Have Become Artworks

March 17, 2018

|Ariel Rodriguez

An art gallery, a cemetery, or a church? How about all of the above

A church is “the house of God.” It's the most spiritual place to pray and public shelter for all. But churches are kind of scary to walk into, right? I mean they are dark inside, have old furniture, sculptures of suffering-looking faces staring at people, and for some reason I always feel like the Hunchback of Notre Dame would pop out of nowhere to scare the hell out of me. In part, I think this “fear of churches” comes from horror movies’ obsession to associate the sacred places with vampires, demons, and other non-friendly things. It makes me want to ask one simple question: Is there anything scarier than a old-gothic church? Yes, yes there is. Believe it or not there is a church in Czech Republic decorated with over 40 thousand skeletons – human skeletons. Oh, and it’s next to a cemetery. You know, because it wasn’t creepy enough. And if you are one of those who wouldn’t dare to enter, don’t worry, because here’s a collection of photos for you to believe.


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The city of Kutná Hora, Czech Republic, is home of Sedlec Ossuar (aka: The Bone Church, or Sedlec Ossuary). The church was built beneath the cemetery of All Saints Church and it’s also considered an ossuary, a place made to keep the remains of a person. It is a tourist sensation since it has enormous and very artistic arrangements made from human skeletons. There are large bone chalices, baroque bone candelabras, enormous bone pyramids, and skull candle holders. Bone this and bone that, they are composed with all sorts of human skeleton components. As appreciated in these photos, one can come across skulls, vertebrae, ribs, and more.


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The most impressive of them all have to be the chandeliers, which have hanging bones and candles to decorate the piece of artwork. There are also all sorts of creative sculptures like towers, crosses, and the most photographed of them all: a family crest, which has become the symbol of the city.


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But why and how? It all started in the late 1200's when Father Henry of Sedlec Monastery was ordered by King Otakar II of Bohemia to go to the Holy Land. From his mission, he brought back a small amount of earth, which he allegedly sprinkled over the cemetery, making it a very desirable place for people to rest in peace. In the mid-14th century, plague had spread throughout Europe filling up the Sedlec cemetery pretty quickly. Around the 1400's, the church and ossuary had been built in the middle of the cemetery. Years later, there was no place to put more bodies, so the monks decided to exhume the long-deceased in order to bury recent ones. The old remains were placed throughout the church leaving the monks with no clue on what to do with them. Luckily, in 1870, a local woodcarver, František Rint, was hired for the creepy task of arranging the bones into what we know now as "The Bone Church."


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Turns out that the idea, more than a creative alternative of art, became a solution to a huge space problem. It is hard to explain why they decided to turn their ancestors into artistic sculptures. Some would consider this practice an offense. But think about it, if there is no room left to place the remains, would you either turn them into a holy sanctuary, or throw them away? Fortunately for those of us who can’t go to Czech Republic, these photos are all the proof we need to believe in human creativity during dark ages. 


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Ariel Rodriguez

Ariel Rodriguez


Creative Writer
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