Travel Tales: A Day Trip Into Kutná Hora – Its not just about the Sedlec Ossuary Bone Chapel!

by Paris B on · 33 comments

in Travel

kutna hora town5 Travel Tales: A Day Trip Into Kutná Hora   Its not just about the Sedlec Ossuary Bone Chapel!

Hello fellow travellers, I’m revisiting the Czech Republic again. Seeing how I love to travel and seeing how so many of you similarly love to travel, I wanted to share a little more about my travels. Perhaps it might inspire your next vacation or perhaps you can inspire mine! icon biggrin Travel Tales: A Day Trip Into Kutná Hora   Its not just about the Sedlec Ossuary Bone Chapel!

Before I visited Prague, someone I know had just gotten back not very long before that and from their photographs, I saw pictures of skulls and bones which sent shivers down my spine even as it intrigued the hell out of me. I wanted to see that too! A quick look through Google told me I should go to the Sedlec Ossuary (Sedlecká kostnice) and to the nearby town of Kutná Hora.

Kutná Hora is just about an hour out of Prague city and I read you can do it quite easily by train or bus. But I opted for a half day guided trip through a tour company I saw on the back of a brochure. All it called for, was for me to go to the Old Town Square in Prague at about 9.45am and look for someone holding a green umbrella. So I did and I found a lady holding a large green umbrella just as they said. The trip cost KC1290 (approx RM210) per person and included lunch, transport and a souvenir DVD haha… the last was quite unexpected.

So, here are some (ok, a lot of) pictures of this UNESCO Heritage town and what I saw while I was there.

I learned that Kutná Hora had, at its origins, a robust silver mining and silver coin minting industry. It used to be the second largest and most important city in Bohemia (old Czech Republic) after Prague and thrived economically and culturally. Its now a small little town and when I was there on a weekend, very quiet. I wasn’t quite sure where everyone was hiding.

Our tour started at Sedlec Ossuary so that’s where I’ll take you first. Be warned of rather scary photos ahead!

kutna hora chapel Travel Tales: A Day Trip Into Kutná Hora   Its not just about the Sedlec Ossuary Bone Chapel!

This is a little chapel just a few minutes outside the town of Kutná Hora in the neighbouring town of Sedlec. What makes it so famous and a must see, is that it is decorated with the bones of over 40,000 humans. That’s right. Human. Decoration.

Lest you think it a commemoration of something gory, it actually isn’t. The bones were of people living in the area who had been buried there for years, who had died of natural causes or the Black Plague or wars. When a larger chapel was to be built in the area, these bones were exhumed and instead of having them tossed aside, in 1870 the ruling Schwarzenberg family instructed a local woodcarver František Rint to put the bones in order. This was the result. There are 3 large pyramids in 3 alcoves of the chapel filled with skulls and bones and you can see the signature of the woodcarver above – F. Rint. An artist always signs off on his art!

kutna hora chapel2 Travel Tales: A Day Trip Into Kutná Hora   Its not just about the Sedlec Ossuary Bone Chapel!

Because the work was commissioned by the Schwarzenberg family, they get their coat of arms immortalised in bone.

kutna hora chapel3 Travel Tales: A Day Trip Into Kutná Hora   Its not just about the Sedlec Ossuary Bone Chapel!

Look up and there above your head is a chandelier created with bone. I have to say the effect is quite awe-inspiring and rather chilling. However, I didn’t find it scary in the sense of being horrified by it as I thought I would be. Perhaps the bright sunlight streaming through the windows helped, but I didn’t linger too long either icon razz Travel Tales: A Day Trip Into Kutná Hora   Its not just about the Sedlec Ossuary Bone Chapel!

We then headed into Kutná Hora town a few minutes away for a walking tour of the town. It is quite easy to walk around and it is quite small so half a day will more than suffice unless you are a history buff or want to spend more time in this little town.

kutna hora town Travel Tales: A Day Trip Into Kutná Hora   Its not just about the Sedlec Ossuary Bone Chapel!

One of the first things we came upon was this column in the middle of the town. It was built in the 1700s as a thanksgiving after the end of the Black Plague which hit Europe very badly killing millions of people. It was a Saturday when I was there and the town was quite silent. There was no one about at all!

kutna hora town4 Travel Tales: A Day Trip Into Kutná Hora   Its not just about the Sedlec Ossuary Bone Chapel!

Being a UNESCO Heritage Town, it is very well preserved. The roads are narrow with cobblestones (watch out or you’d turn your ankle!) and the buildings retain their original facades where possible. I did notice that many buildings looked freshly painted or newly painted and were generally very well maintained. Must be quite something to live in such a historical little town!

kutna hora town3 Travel Tales: A Day Trip Into Kutná Hora   Its not just about the Sedlec Ossuary Bone Chapel!

Peeking into the Italian Court which now houses the Town Hall. It used to be a royal palace and the seat of the Central Mint of Prague. There is a lovely little courtyard and the buildings are kept in very good condition. While I was there, there was a civil wedding ceremony going on and also 2 other weddings going on in the neighbouring churches. Truly, Spring is the season for weddings! icon biggrin Travel Tales: A Day Trip Into Kutná Hora   Its not just about the Sedlec Ossuary Bone Chapel!

kutna hora town7 Travel Tales: A Day Trip Into Kutná Hora   Its not just about the Sedlec Ossuary Bone Chapel!

In the middle of the town, you will see this round stone building which looks like a very large crown. It is a Gothic Stone water fountain which was used as a water tank or reservoir in the olden days and has intricate carvings all around it.

kutna hora town2 Travel Tales: A Day Trip Into Kutná Hora   Its not just about the Sedlec Ossuary Bone Chapel!

Here’s a gratuitous picture of the countryside of Kutná Hora that you will see if you just turn your head away from the buildings in the town. I love gazing at the countryside in Europe. Its so different from what I see here in the Tropics. We don’t get that sort of intense green nor the light green of budding leaves that are just coming to life after the long winter. Colours and sights like this are as exciting to me as viewing medieval buildings icon biggrin Travel Tales: A Day Trip Into Kutná Hora   Its not just about the Sedlec Ossuary Bone Chapel!

kutna hora church2 Travel Tales: A Day Trip Into Kutná Hora   Its not just about the Sedlec Ossuary Bone Chapel!

The final main sight in Kutná Hora is the St. Barbara’s Church which is a huge Gothic structure just a little way away from the town next to the large white Jesuit College. There is a walkway leading up to both buildings and just a couple of minutes walk from the town. Very pleasant when it isn’t too hot. When I was there, it was quite hot but I think in slightly cooler weather, it would be lovely!

kutna hora church Travel Tales: A Day Trip Into Kutná Hora   Its not just about the Sedlec Ossuary Bone Chapel!

St. Barbara’s Church is, in one word, ENORMOUS! The vaulted ceiling was so far up, I had a crick in my neck trying to look at all of it. St. Barbara is the patron saint of miners which is fitting for Kutná Hora since it is originally a silver mining town. Apparently construction started in the 1300s but wasn’t completed until the early 1900s. Contractors eh? icon razz Travel Tales: A Day Trip Into Kutná Hora   Its not just about the Sedlec Ossuary Bone Chapel!

St. Barbara’s Church is supposed to be one of the most famous Gothic churches in central Europe and is in itself a UNESCO Heritage Site. There is so much to take in in there. From the awe-inspiring tall stained glass windows…..

kutna hora church3 Travel Tales: A Day Trip Into Kutná Hora   Its not just about the Sedlec Ossuary Bone Chapel!

… to the still working (!!) Baroque style pipe organ!

kutna hora church5 Travel Tales: A Day Trip Into Kutná Hora   Its not just about the Sedlec Ossuary Bone Chapel!

The organ and church is still in use and often for weddings or ceremonies. There was no wedding being held while I was there, unfortunately as I would have loved to hear the organ in action.

kutna hora church4 Travel Tales: A Day Trip Into Kutná Hora   Its not just about the Sedlec Ossuary Bone Chapel!

On one wall are some old paintings/frescos that caught my eye because they depicted silver coinmakers at work! You can see the silversmiths hammering away on the left and minting coins on the right. You don’t always see this in a church where religious paintings usually rule the day, not normal day-to-day affairs. But it is a wonderful way for us in the future to have a glimpse at what went on in the past icon smile Travel Tales: A Day Trip Into Kutná Hora   Its not just about the Sedlec Ossuary Bone Chapel!

And that, my friends is my little day trip to Kutná Hora! icon biggrin Travel Tales: A Day Trip Into Kutná Hora   Its not just about the Sedlec Ossuary Bone Chapel! It is a lovely town to visit, and a nice day trip away from the busy city that is Prague. If I’m to be honest, there isn’t all that much to see and do, which is why I suggest that you take a guided tour. The guide will give you the historical background to what you are seeing and that will make it mean more to you rather than doing it yourself, because you’d then go “Oh look, another building that I have no idea what it is about” icon smile Travel Tales: A Day Trip Into Kutná Hora   Its not just about the Sedlec Ossuary Bone Chapel!

Now, be honest. You’ve just scrolled back up to Pictures No. 2, 3 and 4 to stare at the skulls and bones right? icon wink Travel Tales: A Day Trip Into Kutná Hora   Its not just about the Sedlec Ossuary Bone Chapel!

Paris B

This is Part 2 of my chronicles of my visit to Prague, Czech Republic. You can read my suggestions on 10 things to do while visiting Prague here. Or read more Travel Tales here.

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[ 33 comments… read them below or join the discussion ]

Isabel June 16, 2013 at 9:15 am

I really enjoy reading your travel tales and hope to see more of these posts. Since I missed out on the Capuchin Crypt in Rome, I should make an effort to to find my way to Kutna Hora (hopefully) later this year. Not sure if it’s all that wise to go to Prague during winter with the cold and attractions closing early (or not opening at all??) but I’ve never experienced Europe in winter so heigh-ho, there you go!

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Paris B
Twitter:
June 18, 2013 at 5:22 pm

Glad you enjoy it Isabel :D I didn’t even know about the Capuchin Crypt in Rome or I’d have gone when I was there! Or maybe not haha! A crypt might just be too scary :P I’m told Prague is really cold in winter but it’ll be snowy and pretty. The Prague castle will be open but other outlying castles will be closed from October on because tourist season tapers off by then. Still, it’ll be a good experience and make sure you stay somewhere warm and comfortable! Oh and dress comfortably too!

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Isabel June 18, 2013 at 6:10 pm

I definitely need to bundle up in winter! It’s a bit sad that the other castles will be closed but I suppose I’m there more for the wintry, Christmassy atmosphere (Christmas markets, etc) this time around. I’ll leave the other attractions as a reason to return to Prague :)

I had a couple of friends who told me they loved the charm of Prague but found the people there not quite the friendly sort. Did you experience the same thing?

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Paris B
Twitter:
June 18, 2013 at 7:04 pm

I would love to see the Christmas markets too! I’m sure they are really fun and that you’ll have a fabulous time, cold or not :D I thought the people were ok. Not exactly falling over themselves to be friends but friendly enough because I clearly don’t look like I can speak Czech nor understand local customs :D It was generally ok :)

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Isabel June 18, 2013 at 8:20 pm

That’s great to know! :)

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Tracy June 16, 2013 at 9:22 am

That is so COOL. Holy cow I’ve never seen anything like it! It’s kind of piratey looking that chandelier.
The architecture is some thing else! Again, stuff I’ve never really seen. Methinks another trip to Europe is in order! :)
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Paris B
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June 18, 2013 at 5:23 pm

Now that you mention it, yes it is very piratey. Arrr! :D I think you’d love Central Europe :D

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LeGeeque June 16, 2013 at 5:19 pm

I can’t wait for my trip! I’m not a history buff (in fact I make it a point to skip history classes out of rebellion) but I LOVE architecture and I’m always amazed at what the human mind can conjure up and build into a structure. Thanks for this post. I don’t know if I’m more excited about the Czech beer or the touristy stuff that I long for. Both, perhaps?

PS-I think my excitement has something to do with the fact that I have a total massive girly crush on Temperance Brennan ;)

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Paris B
Twitter:
June 18, 2013 at 5:29 pm

You can’t escape history in Europe, Geek its everywhere! :P A bit of historical background does help make things more interesting especially if the guide is a good one. But their architecture is quite something else :) I think you’ll love your trip :D

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Rin June 16, 2013 at 10:17 pm

Hi Paris! Yes, I scrolled back up to Pictures No. 2, 3 and 4! The first time I saw the pics, I was like, “Wow, look at those skulls & bones!”. I’m not a fan of skulls & bones LOL but those skulls & bones have a different story altogether (oh, in this case, history). Anyway, yes, wow! Thanks Paris for sharing your pics & experience.

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Paris B
Twitter:
June 18, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Haha I knew someone would! ;) Bones usually give me the creeps too, especially when they’re all over the place like that but for some reason, seeing them turned into a chandelier does make it a little more amusing haha… Glad you enjoyed this little armchair travel.

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Jamilla Camel June 16, 2013 at 11:04 pm

GREAT PICS! Now I know someone who has actually visited this place! BTW, I can’t help but stare at your FAB SUNNIES!
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Paris B
Twitter:
June 18, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Thanks Jamilla :D They are an inexpensive but very effective pair from Polaroid! I love polarized lenses – cuts out the glare so effectively

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SH June 16, 2013 at 11:51 pm

Thanks for sharing…do keep the travel posts coming. :)

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Paris B
Twitter:
June 18, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Glad you enjoy them SH! :D

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cindy June 16, 2013 at 11:51 pm

dear Paris, I enjoyed reading your posts regarding the Czech Republic, where I have studied and lived for a lil while. You must really go to Cesky Krumlov, it’s the prettiest town near Prague that’s even more surreal than Disney! My personal favorite town in Central Europe is this little paradise called Hallstatt in Austria, it’s so pretty that China made a copy of it back home :))

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Paris B
Twitter:
June 18, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Hi Cindy, wow! You actually lived there :D I’d love to live there for a little while – I’m seriously in love with the place :D I did visit Cesky Krumlov too which will be coming up in a different post. I wasn’t sure if I liked it initially, but after spending 3 hours sitting in the sun having lunch by the river, yes, I love the town too! So beautiful! :D

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Romana
Twitter:
June 17, 2013 at 12:07 am

There’s something similar in Rome: Capuchin Crypt.

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Paris B
Twitter:
June 18, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Ah I missed that when I was there Romana :(

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Sofia June 17, 2013 at 5:22 am

What beautiful photos! I am really loving the church, I love gothic churches. When you say it was quite hot there, wow you must have had some “luck” because the Czech Republic is not exactly the warmest place in Europe nor with the nicest weather :)
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Paris B
Twitter:
June 18, 2013 at 5:41 pm

Hi Sofia, I’m glad you enjoyed it :D Yeah, it was hot – relatively speaking. It was about 25 C and the sun was so bright and hot! The next day, I woke up to 6 degree weather haha! Glad I brought my winter coat :D

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Victoria June 17, 2013 at 10:28 am

Wow, the church is gorgeous and that organ is huge. Lol. Really love the picture of the countryside, it looks so serene and peaceful. Agree with Jamilla, love your sunnies. Hahaha.

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Paris B
Twitter:
June 18, 2013 at 5:45 pm

I think the guide said there were 2 organs in there. Or maybe it was in a different church LOL I can’t remember anymore darnnit! :P I love the European countryside. Its so different from the tropics. For one, you don’t get lalang :D

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Larie June 17, 2013 at 10:48 am

I love your travel posts! They are amazing and give me wanderlust!
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Paris B
Twitter:
June 18, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Aww thanks Larie! Happy that they make others happy and inspire people to travel! :D

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Irene June 17, 2013 at 11:06 am

Hi Paris! Lovely post as usual. I have a question related to travelling, what do you think is the best travel footwear? For winter/colder climate, and a lot of walking & exploring on foot. I am thinking of some sorts of boots or something with really thick soles, but really have no idea where to start looking. Thank you!

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Paris B
Twitter:
June 18, 2013 at 5:52 pm

Hi Irene, when I travel in late autumn/winter I usually prefer to wear flat soled rubber boots. Rubber holds its grip better on wet cobblestoned streets especially when you know you’re walking a lot. It took me a long time to find a pair but I bought one from Clarks many years ago on sale, which still serves me well even today. In the alternative, I prefer also wearing rubber soled ankle boots. I find that ankle boots help support your ankle which is useful when you walk a lot. I prefer wearing leather because it seems to keep my feet drier and cuts out the wind better. Sneakers or sports shoes tend to let the wet and cold in and ends up being very uncomfortable in the end. So, personally, I’d look to Clarks for ankle boots or if you like, high boots. Their shoes are comfortable, made for the wet English weather and thus are more suitable for winter travel, and if you get them on sale, not too pricey. I’d stay away from PVC anything. They may look fashionable but when you’re shivering in the cold and can’t feel your toes, you’d wish you wore something hardy and less fashionable instead. Just my 2 sen :)

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Irene June 19, 2013 at 10:02 am

Hi Paris! Thank you so much for the very useful tips! You potentially just saved me from being frozen to death :D

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Paris B
Twitter:
June 19, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Haha I’m glad of that! :D

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Amanda June 17, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Very well-written, Paris! :) When I visited Kutna Hora 7 years ago, St.Barbara was under renovation. My husband has been living in the CZ for more than 10 years and he has never been to Kutna Hora before. I haven’t visited many places in the Bohemian part of the country. Hopefully this summer we’re able to visit some of them.
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Paris B
Twitter:
June 18, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Ah you should do a “local tour” of Bohemia, Amanda! I’m so jealous that you can just drive around the various towns! I would, except I read up on driving in the Czech Republic and the advise given was “Don’t” LOL :D

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beetrice
Twitter:
June 17, 2013 at 4:21 pm

When I saw the first 4 pics, I suddenly had this mental image of Bones standing there going “No no no this isn’t right at all – they’ve mixed up male and female bones!” and trying to pull the bones down to rearrange them ‘properly’! :P

Love these travel posts…keep them coming! :D

PS: Wonder what they did with the phalanges? Heehee…
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Paris B
Twitter:
June 18, 2013 at 5:57 pm

Hahaha she would not have approved of the hodge podge of bones :D The phalanges I think, line the walls and windows and are used to make small decorative things. Interesting huh? ;)

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