Category Archives: CZECH REPUBLIC

Over 1,000 skeletons discovered during the renovation of Kutná Hora “bone church” the Czech Republic

Over 1,000 skeletons discovered during the renovation of Kutná Hora “bone church” in the Czech Republic

The Ossuary of Sedlec is not a common Catholic chapel in the Czech Republic. This is one of the most unique chapels that you can visit, situated at Sedlec, in the suburbs of Kutna Hora.

Its nicknamed Church of Bones, or sometimes Bone Church visitors may not notice anything extraordinary on the outside but once you enter the chapel you should be prepared to cope with a gruesome sight.

The Sedlec Ossuary is adorned with more than 40,000 human skeletons, and many more are still found. Some think there could be as many as 70,000 or human skeletons arranged into all sorts of formations inside the Sedlec Ossuary.

Inside the Sedlec Ossuary.

During the renovation works of the 14th-century church archaeologists accidentally stumbled upon 34 mass graves with 1,200 skeletons, most of which belong to the victims of the Black Death and famine. Experts say it is the biggest find of its kind in Europe and the finding gives provides researchers with valuable historical information about people who lived in this community.

These bones belong to people who died during the mid-14th-century plague and in the subsequent Hussite Wars. Extensive renovation of the Sedlec Ossuary started in 2014 and two years later archaeologists were granted permission to launch a survey.

“We have been digging around the ossuary. The most significant discovery we have made are mass graves of the victims of a famine in 1318 and the plague in 1348.

“It could be compared to the burial ground in East Smithfield in London, which has some 500 skeletons. We have discovered around 600 plague victims and 600 victims of famine, so altogether 1,200 skeletons.

Archaeologists discovered over 1,2oo skeletons and five mass graves.
Archaeologists discovered over 1,200 skeletons and five mass graves.

This year we also started research in the interior. Below the first pyramid, we found five mass graves, which are even older. So when the ossuary was built, they had no idea that the graves were there,” archaeologist Jan Frolík, who is one of the members of the research team said.

Frolik said the skeletal remains have already unveiled a lot about the population of Kutná Hora at the time:

“They could be characterized as a mining population because there is a significant prevalence of men over women.

The ratio of adults and children is around fifty-fifty, which is a common population make up. But the 30-percent prevalence of men shows that there were new miners constantly flowing into the town and that it was apparently a very dangerous trade.

Otherwise, I would say it was a typical medieval society, judging by the injuries and illnesses reflected in the bones. So there were common fractures of limbs, some of them badly grown together. As for the illnesses that can be detected this way, we have recorded tuberculosis and meningitis,” he explained.

The Church of Bones is a popular tourist attraction but also a place of worship.

The story of the Church of Bones goes back to 1278 when the King of Bohemia sent the abbot of the Sedlec Cistercian Monastery to Jerusalem. The returning abbot returned with a jar of soil from the Golgotha. This “Holy Soil” attracted many people from different places and many wanted to be buried in Sedlec. In time there was no more room for skeletons and, thus the cemetery had to be expanded.

The Church of Bones in the Czech Republic is famous but certainly not the only place where we find walls decorated with bones and skulls of long-deceased people.

Under the city of Rome, Italy there is the Capuchin Crypt also known as the ‘Bone Chapel’. Inside the Capuchin Crypt, there are remains of 4,000 Capuchin monks buried by their order. They ‘decorate’ the underground crypt with vertebrae chandeliers, skulls of real size and cross-bones.

Capuchin Crypt in Rome, Italy.

The skeletons are standing and are dressed in robes. These people who passed away a long time ago are staring from the walls and in the background, there are hundreds of anonymous skulls of those who died.

Even more bizarre are the bodies discovered by art historian Paul Koudounaris who hunted them down in secret Catholic vaults in Rome and churches across Europe.

In his book, Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures and Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs, Paul Koudounaris offers an intriguing visual history of veneration in European churches and monasteries of bejeweled and decorated skeletons.

The bodies were discovered by art historian Paul Koudounaris who hunted them down in secret Catholic vaults in Rome and churches across Europe.

The bodies were discovered by art historian Paul Koudounaris who hunted them down in secret Catholic vaults in Rome and churches across Europe.

Beneath the streets of Paris, France there is a huge underground labyrinth with dark galleries and narrow passages. The Paris catacombs contain skeletal remains of some 6 to 7 million former Parisians. The bones were deliberately arranged in a macabre display of high Romantic taste.

Paris catacombs.

While visiting these particular chapels and catacombs it may be wise to remember that regardless of how macabre these piles of skulls and skeletons are, these are still places of worship and we should pay respect to those who rest there.

Remains Of Medieval Wall Unearthed In Czech Republic

Remnants of Medieval Wall Dating Back to 1041 Unearthed in Breclav, Czech Republic

A remarkable archeological discovery – remains of a medieval wall at the beginning of the 11th century – was uncovered in the planning for restoring the Břeclav castle.

Archeologists claim the fortification was designed by the Duke of Bohemia, Břetislav, who controlled the area and gave its name to the town of Břeclav.

The city of Břeclav in southern Moravia has a rich past. Just a few months ago archaeologists discovered the remains of a boat that is estimated to be thousands of years old and now archaeological research in the bowels of Břeclav Castle, prior to its planned reconstruction, has revealed the remains of a medieval wall that is believed to have been built in 1041. 

Archaeologist Miroslav Dejmal of the Archaia Brno organization, who is conducting the research emphasized the importance of the find, saying that walls dating back to the 11th century are extremely rare. 

“What you see here are the remnants of a wall made of clay and wood. These are the foundations because the upper part was obviously destroyed by a fire, as you can see from this soft charcoal.” 

The original wall, which was hidden for centuries under a thick layer of clay, is estimated to have been around 8 meters high and parts of it are now being analyzed.

Preliminary results suggest that the wall is nearly a thousand years old and dates back to the first mention of the town in written records. Archaeologist Miroslav Dejmal says it is another part of the jigsaw puzzle falling into place. 

“The date that we have now from the result of preliminary tests is 1041. This leads us to conclude that it was most likely built by Břetislav, Duke of Bohemia.

When Moravia came under Břetislav’s administration, he invested in its castles and forts, pacified the country and eventually Moravia was incorporated into the Bohemian duchy.

If the date 1041 is a correct estimate, we can say with certainty that Břetislav built a fortified settlement here, which we already suspected, because the name Břeclav itself is derived from the name Břetislav.” 

The local authorities are delighted with the extraordinary find, even if it will inevitably delay work on the reconstruction of Břeclav Castle.

The spokesman for Břeclav City Hall, Jiří Holobrádek, says the find has generated great interest among the locals, but it is early days yet to say how and in what way the remnants of this medieval wall will be preserved. 

“It is too soon to say how we will proceed. Much depends on the outcome of the expert analysis that has only just started and we will obviously heed the advice of historians and archaeologists. However, given the importance of the discovery, it would be good to find a way to present it to the public.” 

The first means of doing that is already clear – archaeologists are working on a 3D model of the wall that looks to be as old as the town itself.