On (Dubiously) Holy Relics


Huzzah! I’m no longer traveling solo. My friend Natalie arrived Friday night, and since she had been to Prague previously, we opted to venture outside the city for a more “quaint” experience of Czech culture. We encountered the joys of traveling in small foreign cities (where transportation can be confusing and erratic – the bus to take us into town never came), and we got to see one of the creepiest places I’ve ever been.

The Kutna Hora “bone church,” nestled in the tiny(er) town of Sedlec, is one of the most visited places in the Czech Republic. It’s also probably one of the weirdest and definitely not a church where I felt that spiritual connection I was talking about in my previous post.
According to legend, a monk (or pilgrim or somebody) brought a handful of earth from Jerusalem in 1278 and scattered it in the Sedlec Cemetery. Consequently, the burial ground became “part” of the Holy Land and therefore prime real estate for one’s eternal rest. Rumors also spread that it only took three days for bodies to decompose in this choice soil, ’cause who relishes the idea of taking months to rot? So thousands and thousands of folks were buried here, and then in the 15th century “the major part of the cemetery was abolished” (not real clear on what that means, “abolishing” a cemetery?!), so the remains of nearly 40,000 bodies were brought inside the church’s underground chapel.
The creepy bone art didn’t happen until the 18th century, though (yes, that’s a coat of arms, made of human remains), and this entire space is theoretically “a message of MEMENTO MORI with the Hope of RESURRECTION.” (The quotes are coming from the back of my ticket stub, by the by). Apparently, it’s supposed to be a very pious treatment of the bones, to use them as decoration in a church, but personally I’m dubious.
Maybe it’s my jaded 20th Century upbringing, but it felt more like a scene from The Goonies or Indiana Jones than a holy place. But thinking about it now, I can’t decide if I’d rather end up buried in the earth forever or part of a chandelier. I mean, at least the chandelier’s got style, and I wouldn’t be lonesome.

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