Prague, the enchanting fairytale city, sits on the banks of the Vltava River in the heart of Czech Republic welcoming millions of tourists every year. It is the city of a thousand spires. The city of quaint cobblestone streets built in a labyrinth surrounding the infamous Charles Bridge. It is a city that will capture your heart the second you gaze at the Astronomical Clock and sip a classical Czech beer. And it is the city that you’ll never want to leave.
Okay, maybe you’ll want to leave to check out Ossuary, or the Bone Church, in Kutna Hora. You’ve probably heard of this fabled church constructed of bones near Prague, but you never considered it to be a real place. It’s just too creepy, right? Well, it exists. And, it’s totally fascinating.
Kutna Hora is one of the most popular day trips from Prague. The small bohemian town of Kutna Hora lies about 70 kilometers east of Prague and is easily reachable by train or bus. There are several trains that run between Prague and Kutna Hora everyday. There is a fast train that will get you there in about an hour and several slow trains that take twice as long. All trains are the same so grab the fast train if you can. There are two train stations in Kutna Hora: the Main Station (Kutna Hora hl.n) and Kutna Hora Mestro (Town Center) Station. Get off at the Main Station and walk about 10 minutes to the church. The online train schedule in English can be found here: IDOS – Trains + Buses.
There are a lot of theories and myths about the Bone Church. I mean, with a church filled with bones from over 40,000 people, how can there not be? Despite all the myths and fables, the story goes that in 1142 a Cistercian monastery was founded near the Bone Church. Over a 100 years later in 1278, King Otaker II of Bohemia sent the abbot of Sedlec on a mission to the Holy Land, or present day Israel. Henry, the abbot, took a handful of dirt from Golgotha and sprinkled it over the cemetery of the Sedlec monastery. The cemetery became famous amongst the elites of Central Europe and all the wealthy people wanted to buried in the cemetery sprinkled with a piece of the Holy Land. The cemetery was expanded significantly during the 14th century when the plague hit Europe hard. It was estimated that over 30,000 people were buried in the cemetery in 1318.
During the 15th century, a small Gothic chapel was built in the center of the cemetery with a vaulted upper level and a lower level to serve as an ossuary for all the bones that were moved during the chapel’s construction. In 1511 a half-blind monk was tasked with stacking and organizing the exhumed skeletons. The church was slightly remodeled in the early 1700s and many of the present-day stacks of bones, including the Schwarzenberg family seal, was designed by wood-carver Frantisek Rint in 1970.
The Bone Church is a disturbingly fascinating place. Every corner features a unique display of art from the Schwarzenberg family seal to the chalices to the candelabra in the center of the church. Take your time looking around as it is the tiny details that are truly incredible.
While the Bone Church is the highlight of Kutna Hora, it is not the only site to see in the cute little historic Bohemian town in the heart of the Czech Republic. St. Barbara’s Cathedral is a large Gothic cathedral located in the Old Town. As someone who loves visiting old churches for their history and architectural beauty, St. Barbara’s is definitely a spectacular site.
St. Barbara’s Cathedral was built in the late 1300s as a miners church. Kutna Hora was a silver mining town and many of its rich mine owners enjoyed spending their money on new constructions, like churches. The cathedral was built primarily to create religious independence from the Cistercian monastery in Sedlec and also serve as a place of worship for the miners and their families. Although construction began in the late 1300s it wasn’t completed until 1905 due to several interruptions.
Nearby St. Barbara’s Cathedral is the old Jesuit College that was built between 1667 and the mid-1800s. A pseudo bridge was built connecting the college and the Cathedral with 13 statues of saints similar to the Charles Bridge in Prague.
Kutna Hora is a cute town that was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 so it’s definitely worth checking out instead of hopping the next train back to Prague after visiting the Bone Church. I spent the day in Kutna Hora with Sandeman’s New Europe Kutna Hora Tour, which I thought was a good value since it covered all the expenses, except lunch, and a local tour guide provided a lot of history and knowledge I would not have known otherwise. While I wasn’t very excited about being rushed through the Bone Church, I did enjoy meeting some of my fellow travelers at lunch.
We ate lunch at the Dacicky Beerhall, which isn’t the cheapest place in town, but is one of the most popular in town amongst the locals and tourists alike. The food was decent and was mostly traditional Czech dishes. I enjoyed a traditional plate of goulash and dumplings along with a pint of Czech beer.
The Practical Details:
- Option A: Sandeman’s New Europe Kutna Hora Tour (inclusive of transportation, tour guide, and admission, but does not cover lunch) – €26 Regular/€22 Student
- Option B: Do it yourself route:
- Roundtrip train ticket: About 122 CZK (~$5USD) – Check train schedule here
- Admission to the Bone Church: 90 CZK (~$3.77USD)
- Admission to St. Barbara’s Cathedral: 85 CZK (~$3.56USD)
- Taxi or Bus from Sedlec to Town Center: Varies, but only a few dollars at most