Kutná Hora

UNESCO.  It’s a word/abbreviation that didn’t have much power in my life until coming here.  Suddenly, in September, as students taught me about the Czech Republic and its most attractive sites, the word was everywhere.  Basically it’s a United Nations cultural organization.  There are also certain sites throughout the world recognized as UNESCO sites.  Such a label is used as a stamp of cultural significance.  The website has been a useful resource for me as I consider where to visit within the Czech Republic. 

Recently I went to Prague for a weekend with six American females and two Czech males.  Our mission: to see the musical Les Miserables in Czech. My secret mission: to go to Kutná Hora, an UNESCO site.  Okay, so it wasn’t very secretive, I shared the idea with the rest of the group and everyone signed up.  One of the Czech guys asked at one point, “What’s so great about Kutná Hora anyway?”  My answer: UNESCO site!

St. Barbora's Cathedral
So, the one romantic couple among our group split off to go to Kutná Hora on their own Sunday, and the rest of us headed over on Saturday.  Kutná Hora is situated about 50 minutes east of Prague by train.  It’s a small city, and renowned for its historic city centre, its Cathedral of St. Barbora (or as I like to call it, Svatá Bara’s), and for it’s bone church. I looked up some information before, courtesy of the city website, and Saturday morning five American ladies and one Czech male set out.  The city center was a short bus ride away from the station, and the town was bright with the sun and significantly quieter than the Prague we’d left.

A random church, some 19th century architecture, and then a coffee and cake break at a little café.  We journeyed on, pausing at sites of note and at “ordinary” buildings alike.  We eventually wound our way to Svatá Bara’s where we paid the admission to go inside.  Famous for being a silver mining town, the cathedral is dedicated to miners.  On the ceiling you can see the crests of the families who donated money to the building.  Around the periphery are early 20th century stained glass and much older fresco paintings.  Miners are also featured in the quirky and often awkward paintings.
Back into the sunlight and we ambled to a cute street which housed some shops and, more importantly, some restaurants.  A delicious lunch was had by all, though how we had appetites when the most exciting was yet before us is beyond me.  After finishing, we began walking back towards the train station.  Buses were irregular, and we footed it onward.  We followed signs for “kostnice” (kost means “bone” in Czech), until we came upon groups of old people and a tiny church situated in a small cemetery.  As we purchased our tickets for entry, we could already see all around us: bones.

Monks first came to Kutná Hora in the 12th century and a monastery with a chapel was established.  In the 13th century, a bishop was sent to the holy land.  He took some dirt from Golgotha back with him and sprinkled it among the cemetery.  This caused the cemetery to become renowned and many wealthy people wanted to be buried there.  Adding to this escalation were other historic events throughout the next couple hundred years like the Plague and Hussite wars.  (The ossuary was also burned during the Hussite wars.)  Parts of the cemetery were eliminated throughout the years, and the bones were relocated to the churchyard, simply stacked up around the chapel.  Eventually people arranged the bones into different formations, often without the use of any sort of connecting tools—simply relying on friction and gravity.  Presently, the bones are arranged in a way designed and done by František Rint in 1870.  It consists of four pyramids, a crypt, a chandelier and misc. other designs.  The chandelier contains all of the bones in the human body.  They guess that about 40,000 bones are contained within this space.

 So, another UNESCO site checked off the list.  If you're interested in visiting an ossuary like this one, I'd also recommend the ossuary in Rome.  It's larger and even features some sculptures made from human bones.  For those of you a little set on edge by this, you can fast forward to the pictures below.

Stone Fountain created 1495

Nikdy fasismus = never fascism
Rocker gargoyle on Sv. Bara's
Inside Sv. Bara's
Ashley and Vanessa chillin' before departure back to Prague


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