~ossuary of kutna hora~

July 31st, 2008

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Alfonso dismissed it as anti-Enlightenment flim-flam. Though I had to agree, the ossuary–located about an hour south of Prague in a suburb of Kutna Hora called Sedlec–was also intriguing.

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A chandelier made of (at least) one of every bone in the human body is something to see in my book.

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Here is how it came to be: A monastery was founded here in 1142 and in 1278 an abbot named Henry brought a handful of dirt from Golgotha–the reputed site of Jesus’ crucifixion–to the monastery and sprinkled it around. (Golgoth oddly, is an Aramaic word meaning “the skull.”) Henry’s sprinkling made the monastery’s cemetery a famous and sought-after burial site by the wealthy from all over Central Europe.

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Though the burial site was expanded to accommodate 30,000 bodies from the Black Death plague of 1318, in 1400 many graves were abolished to make was for a Gothic church on the site.

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The legend has a “half blind Cistercian monk” originally handling the unearthed remains of about 40,000 people that eventually were arranged in their current display in 1870 by a Czech wood-carver, Franti┼íek Rint. Master Rint signed his artwork, in bones.

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In 1970, my buddy Jan Švankmajer was commissioned to make a documentary (The Ossuary) about the site, the original soundtrack edit of which was found to be subversive by Czech Communist authorities and prohibited until after the Velvet Revolution.

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