The Art of Macabre: Sedlec Ossuary

In the hearts of all Halloween lovers, there’s a deep longing for all things macabre and strange. And found in Sedlec, a suburb of the Czech Republic, there’s a small, creepy Roman Catholic chapel under the Cemetery Church of All Saints; an ossuary that’s estimated to contain 40,000 to 70,000 people rearranged into eerie and unnatural decorations—fragments of a large masterpiece to be remembered.

Known more commonly as “The Bone Church”, the Sedlec Ossuary holds some of the world’s most aberrant art and history. From a delicately pieced chandelier built from almost every bone in the human body to bone garlands throughout and small candleholders, the Ossuary is full of bizarre creations. Somehow beautiful and deeply disturbing, The Bone Church comes from a long past that begun in the 13th century.

In 1278, Abbot Henry of the Sedlec Monastery was sent to the Holy Land in Jerusalem by the King of Bohemia. He returned with a handful of holy soil that was spread over the cemetery, making it the most desired burial site for people in and around Central Europe. By the mid-14th century, thousands of victims from the Black Death were put to rest in the cemetery, taking much of the ground space. Slowly, in the wild desire to have a grave in the sacred dirt, there simply wasn’t enough room for the newly dead and corpses to come, especially from the Hussite Wars in the early 15th century.

Mindful that room was dwindling, a church was built in the center of the cemetery to be used as an Ossuary for the graves dug up during construction and the ones moved to make room for new burials around 1400. As time carried on, it was in 1511 that the task of unearthing and stacking the bones of the decayed in the chapel was given to a half-blind monk of the order. Which then lead to the dark art well known today by a woodcarver, FrantiĊĦek Rint, in 1870. Hired by the Schwarzenberg family, Rint was responsible for bleaching and organizing the bones, his strange and unique imagination creating the infamous chandelier, the Schwarzenberg coat of arms, two large chalices, and many other creepy and eerily gorgeous pieces.

Used as a location for the Dungeons & Dragons movie as well as Blood & Chocolate, The Bone Church had made numerous appearances in well-known media; even having inspired Rob Zombie in his movie House of 1000 Corpses and written about in The Black Angel by John Connolly.

Bone-chilling and haunting, the Sedlec Ossuary has been and will continue to be a tourist attraction for people from all over the world, mesmerized and fascinated by the morbidity that came to be over history.

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