Kutna Hora is our next destination. Leaving the almightiness of Prague we stop by a LIDL supermarket on the way out of town to stock up on Czech beer. Now at 4.9 Krones for each 500ml bottle, our eyes open and so do our wallets. Moments later we are loading two crates of the cheapest beer we have ever found into the back of Van Damme.. We would later learn that beer in Czech is known as the “flowing bread”, a title fit for this beverage. Although lacking bubbles it still contains the other appropriate elements of alcohol and flavour.
A little further down the track we drive into the little town of Kutna Hora, just 70 kilometres east of Praha (Prague). We search the back streets of this little town for a church known as ‘The Kostnice’ or the Ossuary. We have heard of that this building is famous for containing the bones of over 40,000 unknown people and soldiers.
Now its not that odd that a church contain bones. It’s kind of odd that a church contains thousands of bones, but it is really odd that these human bones are used to decorate the ceiling, archways and walls in a macabre display of cultural difference that belongs in the pages of a Tim Burton script.
As we enter the church in the small suburb of Sedlec we pay the lady at the counter and descend the steps into the main chamber. Its cold, but the area is well lit from blue daylight outside and warm orange light inside.
I walk down into the center of the room, handycam in record mode, filming my surrounds. We are the only people in the church at this time, and the silence is eerie as hell. Above me hangs a grand chandelier consisting of eight arms, pun definitely intended. This bizarre skeletal center piece contains every bone of the human body and hangs only inches from my lens and forehead. In each corner of the room stands bony totem poles that tower above. Skull on top of arm bones, on top of skull on top of arm bones, each area is adorned with the human remains that at a quick glance don’t look all that out of place. Strung up along the rafters of the roof are a pattern of creamy craniums and thigh bones resembling a string of human tinsel.
But these decorations have been left up for longer than last Christmas. This was the work of an almost completely blind monk who stacked bone after bone to create six massive bell shaped pyramids in corners of the room. Later in 1526 a woodcarver by the name Frantisek Rint was employed by the wealthy bone loving Schwazenberg family to make some room by dismantling two of the pyramids and creating a decorative display. He also created a coat of arms for the skeletal-pheliac family and signed his name on the wall with small bones from hands and feet.
Why? Well apparently the bones are hung, strung and stacked to remind visitors of the shortness of life, make us aware of our responsibilities, cause us to strive for harmony between each other and to appreciate life to the full. Although all that sounds a little like something from the ‘Dead Poets Society”, the message is not lost on most visitors and especially travelers…after all that’s why we travel.. right? ….Imagine never traveling, never experiencing other cultures, never meeting new people, never seeing any of the world and before you know it your dead and your bones hang decorating the space of a Czech church… let this be a warning to you!!!
We leave the church with a creepy but inspiring feeling inside. Human bones are the things of ‘Indiana Jones’ movies. They’re not supposed exist in regular life, except 6 feet underground in the local suburban cemetery. Although it’s hard to believe what we had just seen, we heed the message. Better get traveling before we all become a chandelier.