The Lovely Bones of Kutna Hora

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The macabre yet fascinating Sedlec Ossuary should be on everybody's bucket list The macabre yet fascinating Sedlec Ossuary should be on everybody's bucket list © Matthew Hart

Some people think death is the end.

But it needn't be.

As the good people at the Sedlec Ossuary in the Czech Republic have proven, it seems we can all still be of some use after we leave this earth... as ornate interior decorations.

This chandelier at Sedlec Ossuary contains at least one of every bone in the human body

Be honest...who wouldn't one one of these in at least one room of their house

In what can only be described as Changing Rooms / 60 Minute Makeover / Backyard Blitz gone mad, Sedlec Ossuary put all those pesky bones that were literally lying around their cemetery and basement into the shape of vases, coats of arms, chandeliers and furniture.

Family crest made from bones at the Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

Schwarzenberg family crest

Family crest made from bones at the Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

Close-up of the crest


So why does a small Roman Catholic Chapel on the outskirts of Kutna Hora in the Czech Republic decide to forgo the painted feature wall, strand of fairy lights or other more conventional interior design trends in favour of lovely bones?

Well, it seems it was a victim of its own success.

This chandelier at Sedlec Ossuary contains at least one of every bone in the human body

This chandelier is equal parts beautiful and creepy

Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic, where every piece of art is made from human bones

Get me this for Christmas and I will love you forever


Way back in the thirteen century, the monastery's abbot went to the Holy Land and brought back some dirt from the site where Jesus was believed to have been crucified outside Jerusalem.

Obviously customs was pretty slack at this time and/or the abbot failed to declare this to them upon his return. Needless to say, it's not recommended anyone attempt this today as the Australian entry customs form clearly asks whether you carrying any dirt, seeds, plants or plant products.

Pile of skulls and femurs at Sedlec Ossuary

The scattered skull and femur look: very in, very now

Anyway, the abbot sprinkled this dirt around the cemetery prompting something of a property boom for the dead. Suddenly everyone in Central Europe wanted to be buried there. Subsequent plagues, wars and general passing of the years meant the cemetery became full to bursting.

Over time, a Gothic church built on the site started to be used as a storeroom for "old bones" to make way for "new bones" in the cemetery. The ossuary is estimated to contain the skeletons of up to 70,000 people. (Warning: "dad joke" ahead) Clearly people were just dying to be buried here.

Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

Garlands of skulls (I know what I'll be using instead of tinsel this Christmas!)

In 1870, the local aristocratic Schwarzenberg family, realising they were not going to get into the pages of Vogue Living with this unholy mess, decided to bring some order to the chaos.

Liking the work of Czech woodcarver Frantisek Rint, they gave him a free reign on the piles of bones, resulting in a unique decorating style which can only be described as "Macabre Chic."

If there was an award for recycling at the time, I think he would have won it.

It actually would have been amazing to watch Rint at work; seeing him choose some bones over others and trying different creations. It also would have been interesting to see the local reaction at the time to his creations: "Is that Aunty Beryl?"

Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

Close up of the garland of skulls

Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

You just know when something is meant for your home


Stepping inside the ossuary, and once you've become accustomed to the gruesome factor, it's hard not to appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship which has gone into the pieces.

In a weird way, it also gives you an appreciation of human anatomy that would make your school biology teacher proud. After all, it's not often you come face to face with human skulls and bones.

And the whole concept certainly validates the old adage used by countless home improvement shows: you really don't need to spend a lot of money to make a big impact.

Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

One idea to spice up your '90s painted feature wall)

It's also a startling reminder that we really are all the same deep down. Literally. Once you strip away the skin, tissue and muscles, we all just look like that.

And really, how much more macabre is having your bones converted into a chandelier compared to just having your bones rotting away under a tombstone. If anything, it's nice you're still being of appreciated long after you've gone.

Knowing that design trends fall out of fashion only to later come back into vogue, you can't help but wonder if the "bone look" is the next one to be resurrected?

What do you think, Better Homes and Gardens?

Matthew Hart

I'm a Brisbane-based professional who loves leaving Brisbane to travel the world and ski. When not travelling, I spend a lot of time thinking about travel and planning the next trip. Always ready to be inspired. Always ready to escape.

Website: www.somekindofblissblog.blogspot.com.au

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0 # Susan 2014-09-30 21:23
Great story, fantastic photos! Would love to see Sedlec Ossuary, now more than ever!
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0 # Derek Freal 2013-03-19 14:23
Awesome awesome awesome...I have been dying to visit Sedlec Ossuary! Didn't realize the full story behind it and just how much history there was. Wild stuff. And props, you make a good dead joke lol ;)
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