On this post I’ll give you a bit of the interesting history of the Sedlec Ossuary, answer a few questions that you’ll undoubtedly have and give you some local tips and tricks to save you some time.
Sedlec Ossuary – Why Was It Built?
In the 13th Century there was an Abbey here. The cemetery attached to the Abbey was considered a very popular place for nobles to be buried (you can read the link with Jerusalem on the Sedlec town info page listed later in the tips and tricks section) but throughout the next hundred years it was overwhelmed with mass graves to deal with the aftermath of the Black Death and other plague outbreaks. So around the year 1400 the church that you see today was built. In fact there were several constructions on the land and the Sedlec Ossuary was designed into the church to store the exhumed bones from the disturbed graves.
How Many People?
Numbers are unclear that’s why you’ll frequently see blogs saying the Sedlec Ossuary contains between 40,000 and 70,000 bodies. This number is largely made up of approximately 30,000 plague victims and 10,000 civil war but the cemetery was still being used up to the end of the 15th Century. Sedlec Church records suggest that a figure of 60,000 is an accurate number for how many people were buried in the cemetery. However it is not accurate to say that all 60,000 are in the Ossuary. Only those disturbed during reconstructions would have been moved so that figure is a lot less so the published numbers apply to bones, not bodies.
The Schwarzenberg family owned much of the land in this part of the country and in 1870 they commissioned a local wood carver called Frantisek Rint to sort and arrange the bones in the Sedlec Ossuary into a macabre art form which of course would include the Schwarzenberg Coat of Arms. It’s this work in the late 19th Century that you see today.
Getting There and Organised Tours
If you are doing this on your own then check the Getting to Kutna Hora post where it describes the train options. For organised tours I’ve put three below which have been around for a long time and have good reputations. The “Bestseller” is the Sandemans tour, there’s another tour option and there’s more of a private tour with wine/food. Organised tours include other places like the St Barbara Cathedral and the Mint.
Sandemans Tour to Kutna Hora has been running for a few years now. Meet up in the centre of Prague and it’s a bus straight to Kutna Hora where you normally do Bone Church first, then the mint and lastly the Cathedral but they can switch things around. It’s a 5.5 hour tour and about 2 hours of that is driving. There is some free time built-in but not enough for a proper meal so it’s either a snack or bring a packed lunch with you.
Check Sandemans Kutna Hora Tour Availability and Book Online
This is just like the tour above, same tour content, same duration. It’s another option although I prefer Sandemans above.
Check Kutna Hora Tour Availability and Book Online
Or if you are a wine drinker then here’s an option for wine tasting, lunch and then finishing with an exploration of ST Barbara Cathedral and the Ossuary. Count on 8 hours for the whole tour.
Check Kutna Hora Wine/Food Tour Availability and Book Online
Tips, Tricks and Changes
1) Don’t bother with sedlecossuary.com. The real site which covers the Sedlec Ossuary is https://www.sedlec.info/kostnice/.
2) You are normally able to visit every day of the year except December 24th but note that during the pandemic period they were closing on Mondays.
3) Since January 2020 you are NOT ALLOWED to take your own photos in the Ossuary.
4) You can no longer buy tickets for the Ossuary at the church location. Now you need to go to the Information Centre at Zamecka 279 which is 200 metres from the church, here’s the Google Map.