7 Amazing Facts About the Sedlec Ossuary

Decorations in the Sedlec Ossuary, a small chapel beneath the Cemetery Church of All Saints in Sedlec, a suburb of Kutna Hora in the Czech Republic
Decorations in the Sedlec Ossuary, a small chapel beneath the Cemetery Church of All Saints in Sedlec, a suburb of Kutna Hora in the Czech Republic
MICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty Images

About an hour's drive east of Prague, the Czech Republic's Sedlec Ossuary—known as Kostnice Sedlec in Czech, and nicknamed the Bone Church—has become a macabre pilgrimage site for roughly 400,000 tourists a year. The centuries-old Roman Catholic chapel boasts a series of stunning decorations, all made from skeletons. Read on for seven facts about the past, present, and future of this remarkable (and remarkably dark) attraction.

1. The Sedlec Ossuary is home to the remains of more than 40,000 people.

The Bone Church started out as part of a Cistercian monastery founded in 1142 [PDF]. According to legend, around 1278, a local abbot made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, after which he brought back a handful of soil from Golgotha—the site of Jesus's crucifixion. Upon his return, the abbot scattered the soil over the monastery's cemetery as an act of consecration. Soon enough, Sedlec's cemetery became a highly desirable place to be buried, and the Black Death epidemics of the 14th century only added to the number of burials. The Hussite Wars (1419-1434) added another approximately 10,000 bodies. Before long, the cemetery groaned under the weight of all its occupants, and an ossuary—a receptacle for bones—was constructed to hold the "excess" bodies in the basement of the cemetery chapel. The decorations in the Bone Church were constructed from these extra bones, primarily in the 19th century.

2. According to legend, a half-blind monk first arranged the bones at the Sedlec Ossuary into pyramids.

If you visit the underground chapel today, you'll notice pyramids of bones in each corner. Now there are four, but once there were six—all allegedly arranged by a half-blind monk in the early 16th century. Supposedly, once he had finished arranging the skulls, femurs, etc. to his liking, he regained his sight.

3. The Sedlec Ossuary is home to a chandelier made with (almost) every bone in the human body.

A Baroque period bone chandelier in the Sedlec OssuaryMICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty Images

Perhaps the most famous feature of the Bone Church is the 8-foot chandelier said to contain almost every bone a human being can grow. The chandelier is the work of František Rint, a Czech woodcarver hired around 1870 by the Schwarzenbergs, a powerful noble family that had purchased the property in the late 1700s. Rint—who may have trained in Italy and been inspired by the skeletal decorations in some crypts there—disinfected the bones and bleached them with chlorinated lime to give them a uniform appearance. Macabre as it may seem, the chandelier is not intended as a ghoulish decoration: It's a memento mori, a reminder of death, intended to encourage believers to consider their earthly fate and relationship with God.

4. The Sedlec Ossuary is also home to a family crest made out of bones.

Visitors look at the coat of arms of the Schwarzenberg noble family at the Sedlec Ossuary chapelMICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty Images

The Schwarzenbergs weren't above a little family pride. Rint also fashioned a Schwarzenberg coat of arms out of bones, which is fastened to the railing over one of the pyramids. The bottom right features a raven plucking the eye out of the head of a Turk (all constructed from bones, of course). According to author Paul Koudounaris's book Empire of Death, this feature commemorates the victory of Adolf Schwarzenberg over Ottoman forces in 1598.

5. The Sedlec Ossuary's chapel includes the artist's signature—in bone.

Rint's signature at the Sedlec OssuaryWilson44691, Wikimedia // Public Domain

There's no doubt about who created most of the chapel's morbid decorations—which also include oversized monstrances, chalices, sunbursts, and garlands—because Rint signed his handiwork. If you visit the ossuary, you can see the signature (made from hand and arm bones) near a staircase down from the main level.

6. The Bone Church has starred in its own short film.

In 1970, the centenary of Rint's undertakings, the Czech surrealist filmmaker Jan Svankmajer came out with Kostnice (The Ossuary), a 10-minute, black-and-white short film celebrating the site. The original narration, which included explanations from a tour guide, was deemed unacceptable by Communist authorities (all the death and decay reportedly seemed a little too subversive). Instead, the audio track was replaced with piano music and the recitation of the poem "To Paint the Portrait of a Bird" by Jacques Prevert.

7. The Sedlec Ossuary is under renovation.

Over the years, the dampness of the underground site—not to mention the stampede of visitors—has taken its toll. The Sedlec Ossuary has been under renovation since 2014, and the entire church is in the process of being strengthened and restored. The famed bone chandelier was dismantled, cleaned, and put back together in 2016. As of February 2019, volunteers were at work dismantling and cleaning the pyramids of bones.

While the renovation is ongoing, the site is generally open during repairs.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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The World’s Last Blockbuster Has Been Transformed Into an Airbnb—and It Costs Just $4 Per Night

The Last Blockbuster on Earth is located in Bend, Oregon.
The Last Blockbuster on Earth is located in Bend, Oregon.
Airbnb

In March 2019, a Blockbuster store in Bend, Oregon, became the last remaining Blockbuster on Earth. If you aren't satisfied just browsing the shelves and the candy selection of the rare '90s relic, soon you'll be able to book it for a night for the cost of a movie rental.

As CNN Travel reports, the last Blockbuster location will be available to rent on Airbnb for $4 a night beginning August 17. Sandi Harding, the manager of the video rental store since 2004, has set up the space to recreate the experience of renting a VHS tape and having an old-school movie night at home.

Settle in for an old-school movie night at The Last Blockbuster in Bend, Oregon.Airbnb

A sofa in the makeshift living room features a pull-out mattress complete with retro Memphis pattern sheets. After getting cozy in bed, guests can enjoy their choice of movie from the store's robust VHS collection on a big, boxy TV. And naturally, popcorn and other movie theater snacks are available onsite.

Be Kind. Rewind.Airbnb

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Bend Blockbuster's opening. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, having a big celebration was impossible, so Harding found a way to mark the occasion with a more intimate event. "With everybody being stuck at home and re-experiencing family time together, we thought it would be fun to enjoy some family time in a throwback '90s environment," she told CNN.

When the bookings open on Airbnb on August 17, guests will be able to reserve their one-night stay for September 18, 19, or 20. The space is limited to four people, with guests from the same household preferred.

[h/t CNN Travel]