In my previous post I mentioned Kristin, the American I met on the train from Budapest to Bratislava. When I told her I was heading to Prague she told me that she had been there the previous week and had really enjoyed it, particularly a day trip she took to see Kutna Hora. I had never heard of Kutna Hora before, so I was intrigued. I found a bus in Prague that went out there every day, (it’s about an hour from the city) and hopped on. Kutna Hora has an interesting history. From the 13th to `16th centuries it was a very wealthy city, due to the profitable silver mines in the area. The name of the city is derived from the word that means “hood” in reference to the hoods that were worn by the miners. The money from the mines helped to finance the beautiful 5-naved St. Barbara’s Church, which I had a chance to visit. This church was started in 1388 and has lovely stained glass windows and some well-preserved frescos depicting life in medieval times, but I think my favorite thing in the church is the statue of a silver miner from that period. I learned there that St. Barbara is the patron saint of silver miners.
|St. Barbara's Church|
|Inside St. Barbara's|
|Silver Miner. They wore white|
hoods so they could be more
easily found if there were an accident.
|Fresco of Daily Life|
|Lovely Stained Glass Window|
Now I’ve told you before that I’m a church-girl, I do love a good church, but I was hardly prepared for the next stop on my journey, Sedlac Ossuary, located below All Saints Church in a suburb of Kutna Hora. Services are only held in this church once a year, on All Saints Day, which just so happened to be the day I went there! Such a coincidence! All Saints Day is much bigger in the Czech Republic than it is in America. I also noticed that was the case in Hungary, as when I was there many people I talked to were preparing to go to their hometowns for the weekend to visit the graves of their loved ones. I think that’s a great tradition. Like Dias des los Muertos in Oaxaca, people were decorating the graves outside the church with candles and flowers. I only wish I had been able to stay until dark to see the cemetery all lit up, but my bus to Prague was heading back too early for that.
|Decorating the Graves for All Saints Day|
Now I don’t know about you, but “Ossuary” wasn’t a word in my vocabulary until last week. I didn’t know it means a final resting place for human remains used where space is limited. Bodies are buried, then later the bones are unearthed and stored in an ossuary. Who knew? Well in 1278 the King of Bohemia sent the abbot of this church to the Holy Land and he returned with some earth from Golgotha which he sprinkled over the cemetery, so this became the “in” place to be buried. They just didn’t plan on the plague hitting the town and things getting so crowded in the small burial ground, so they had to get creative. In 1511 the task of exhuming the skeletons and stacking their bones was given to a half-blind monk with a flair for the dramatic. Rather than just piling up the remains of 40,000 people, he created artistic arrangements to form decorations and furnishings for the chapel. Later a prominent family of the town hired a woodcarver to continue the tradition and he arranged the bones in the current configurations. It was fascinating! Coats of Arms made of bones, bunting made of bones, chalices and candelabra made of bones, and most spectacular of all, a bone chandelier containing at least one of every bone in the human body. This takes recycling to a whole new level!
|Chandelier of Bones|
|Coat of Arms|
|Crown of Bones|
|Chalice of Bones|