The Sedlec Ossuary (“Kostnice“ in Czech) is also known as The Bone Church or The Chapel of Bones. It’s a small Roman-Catholic chapel located in the suburb of Kutna Hora in the Czech Republic.
The Ossuary is estimated to contain bones from around 40 000 to 70 000 people and can be found in the basement of the Cemetery Church of All Saints, which was originally part of a Cistercian abbey
Today, visitors from around the world are astonished by its bizarre decorations made from human bones in the form of chandeliers, a pyramid, crosses and coats of arms. – Czech Tourism
So, what’s the story behind the chapel of bones?
I traveled there to find out and see this place with my own eyes. It’s a remarkable place and definitely one of the best and most interesting tourist attractions in the Czech Republic.
Below, you’ll find a complete guide on how to get there, opening hours, entrance fees, photos and more info about the Sedlec Ossuary (The bone church).
How to get there
The bone church is located more or less in the middle of the Czech Republic, and the closest international airport is the one in Prague.
From Prague to Sedlec Ossuary
The easiest way to get there is obviously by joining a day trip tour from Prague. But I recommend going there by train or rent a car and drive on your own. It’s simple with several departures a day, and cost way less than joining a group tour.
Driving: Let’s assume that your car journey starts from Prague, it’s a pretty straightforward way of getting to the Sedlec Ossuary from Prague by car. It’s about 73 kilometers, which takes approx 1.5 hours, and you just follow D1/E65 and then road 101 towards road 2.
We drove from Karlovy Vary, which is approximately a 2.5 – 3 hours drive depending on traffic.
By Train: Buy a ticket for Kutná Hora hl.n. Take the R 985 train (departs every 3 hours) or take the train to Kolin and change train to Kutná Hora hl.n.
By Bus: Less convenient than the train, but there is a bus going to Haje from Prague, where you can change bus to a direct bus going to Kutna Hora center. (this will require a shuttle bus or walking to the Sedlec Ossuary from Kutna Hora)
From Kutna Hora to Sedlec Ossuary
From the center of Kutna Hora, you can either walk for 25-30 minutes, or you can take the tourist shuttle bus to Sedlec Ossuary. It costs only 35 CZK, which is around 1.50 euro. The walk is not interesting, so it’s better to take the shuttle bus and save time.
More info about the Sedlec Ossuary
From the outside, this is quite an average old medieval gothic church. But as you’ve seen in the photos, the inside is definitely something that you don’t see in an average church. If you wonder how this all came to be, the history goes back to 1278 when the Bohemian King sent the Abbot of Sedlec Cistercian Monastery to Jerusalem.
The Abbot brought back soil from Golgotha, and the word quickly spread after the Abbot spread out the soil over the cemetery, which led to people wanting to be buried here because of the “holy soil”. A lot of people got buried here, and some even moved their already dead relatives to get their final rest at this holy place.
The Hussite War and the Plague left more than 40 000 dead people here
Later on, in the 1400s the gothic church was built nearby the cemetery. The story tells that the Ossuary was created by a half-blind monk in the basement of the church, who arranged the bones in the first place. However, it wasn’t an artistic display or creation as we can admire today until 1870.
Frantisek Rint begins his work of wonder at the Sedlec Ossuary
The bones stayed there until 1870 when a woodcarver named Frantisek Rint got appointed by the noble Schwarzenberg family. His task was to put the bones in order, and it is his work that you can now see inside the Sedlec Ossuary.
It was after his remarkable work that the church truly became the church of bones.
Quick facts about Sedlec Ossuary
- Name in local language: Kostnice Sedlec Location: Sedlec – a suburb of Kutná Hora, Czech Republic
- Visitors per year: More than 200 000 people.
- Architecture: Gothic, with Baroque elements
- Faith and Denomination: Roman Catholic – Christian Church
- Curiosity: The Sedlec ossuary contains the skeletons of approx. 40,000 – 70,000 people
- Accommodation: Hotels near Sedlec Ossuary, Kutná Hora
- 1400: Construction of the Gothic Church
- 1703-1710: The New Entrance in Baroque Style
- 1870: Bone decorates
You can also read more at the official website of Czech Tourism
- April to September: 08:00 to 18:00
- October to March: 09:00 to 17:00
- Between November and February: 09:00 to 12:00 and 13:00 to 16:00.
- The Sedlec Ossuary is closed on Christmas.
- Adults: 90 CZK (approx. $3.50 or 3 euros)
- Children & Students: 60 CZK
My Experience and thoughts
After seeing videos and photos online before I came here, I was very excited to see the Bone Church. We arrived around 15:00, and there was a small line for the entrance. We waited around 10 minutes, which isn’t too bad. But I can imagine the line being longer during high-season, so I would recommend going here when the church opens.
Creepy, intimidating or just fascinating?
I was expecting to get a creepy feeling, considering the fact that you’re so close to dead people. Normally, dead people are buried underground, but here they come face to face with you. While I was walking around I couldn’t stop thinking about their life and how they ended up here. Every skull and bone in the Sedlec Ossuary has a story to tell.
It was a lot less creepy than I initially thought before visiting, it was more fascinating to see how Frantisek Rint made this possible. And in some way, it’s also quite beautiful that the people get to rest in this holy place.
Remember to respect the dead
I would also like to take the opportunity to remind visitors that you’re walking among dead people, and thus should pay them your respect by not touching the skulls or bones. Just admire from distance with your eyes.
The Bone Chandelier
One of the most macabre and fascinating pieces of art that can be found here is the Bone Chandelier.
The Schwarzenberg family Coat of Arms
In addition to the Skeleton chandelier, there’s also another fantastic work of art. Namely, the Coat of Arms of the Schwarzenberg family. An interesting fact about this piece is the fact that it’s made from all of the bones in the human body. Pretty impressive to say the least!
More photos from the chapel of bones
These skulls belong to warriors from the Hussite wars, and they are on display in the Sedlec Ossuary.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Bone Church in Kutna Hora is the fact that they have made the bones into artworks. It’s quite fascinating to see what they have done to decorate the Sedlec Ossuary and fit all the bones of the some 70 000 people’s bones.
You will see plenty of skulls in the Sedlec ossuary, and they are all lined up.
The Upper Chapel
As mentioned, the Sedlec Ossuary is part of the lower chapel and basement of the church of all saints. And it’s also possible to walk upstairs to the upper chapel. However, this is not as interesting as the Ossuary, but it’s still worth mentioning. See photo below.
Upstairs you can also read more about the history and restoration project. It tells you how they have done it and the people supporting the renovation as well.
Recommended hotel nearby the Sedlec Ossuary
- Hotel U Ruze – approx. 100 meters from the Bone Church
Other attractions to see nearby the Bone Church
- Cathedral of Our Lady (200 m walking from the Bone church)
- Kutna Hora center
- St Barbara church (very spectacular church in Kutna Hora)
- Chateau Mcely (luxury castle 40 minutes away by car)
Is the Sedlec Ossuary a tourist attraction worth visiting?
I say YES, and nearby Kutna Hora is also worth a visit. But especially the Bone Church as it’s something that you won’t be able to experience anywhere else. The church is unique and as mentioned before, I would list this as one of the top attractions in all of the Czech Republic, and one of the most fascinating churches I’ve visited.
For those who want to bring back more memories than just photos in the form of souvenirs, there’s also a small souvenir shop at the exit.
Do you have more questions about the Sedlec Ossuary? Leave a comment below!