Saturday, 21 March 2009

2006 The Long NOT Winding Road - 1 Day, 1 Church, 1 Cathedral (Part 1)

After a late breakfast we took a walk over to Sedlec, just on the outskirts of Kutna Hora. On the way over we passed a few charity shops advertising "English Fashions" on sale. I assume that these are the clothes that are collected when the bags that are placed through our letterbox are filled.
The reason for our walk can be put down to watching Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman in The Long Way Round. These travellers showed a little piece of film about the All Saints Church.


From the outside it looks like any other church, however it does have an interesting history.


In 1278 King Otakar 2nd of Bohemia sent Henry, the abbot of Sedlec, on a diplomatic mission to the Holy Land. When leaving Jerusalem Henry took with him a handful of earth from Golgotha which he sprinkled over the cemetery of Sedlec monastery, consequently the cemetery became famous, not only in Bohemia but also throughout Central Europe and many wealthy people desired to be buried here. The burial ground was enlarged during the the plagues, for example in 1318 about 30,000 people were buried here.
After 1400 one of the abbots had a church of All-Saints erected in Gothic style in the middle of the cemetery and under it a chapel destined for the deposition of bones from abolished graves, a task which was begun by a half blind Cistercian monk after 1511.

The present arrangement of the bones dates from 1870 and is the work of a Czech wood carver, Frantisek Rint. His name is spelt with more bones on the right hand wall of one of the pyramids built by the monk.


The most interesting creations by Rint are the chandelier in the centre of the nave, containing all the different bones from the human body.


There is also the coat of arms for the Schwarzenberg family.

Walking into the ossuary there are two large sculptures like giant wine glasses, one on either side at the top of the stairs.


The skull and crossbones theme is evident throughout the ossuary, often associated with the Jolly Roger flag on pirate ships but the history of this symbol goes back further as some crucifixes feature it beneath the corpus (the depiction of Jesus' body), in reference to a legend that the place of the crucifixion was also the burial place of Adam or, more likely, in reference to the New Testament statement that the place of his crucifixion was called "Golgotha" ("the Place of a Skull"), which brings us back to the the abbot from Sedlec, on his mission to the Holy Land and the handful of earth.
The final sculpture is hidden away and is quite difficult to get a photo of but is interesting in its design.

We stayed in the ossuary for sometime, having periods of peace between coach tours. It was sad to watch the tour parties come in for fifteen minutes at a time and see some of the people just standing and posing in front of various locations for their holiday snapshots. It is a place that needs to be savoured and with us staying just down the road we had that opportunity.
Morbid? Possibly. Eerie? Certainly. I can almost see it as a Hammer Film set with Christopher Lee or Vincent Price in shot. A place certainly worth seeking out. Thank you Charlie and Ewan.

Here is a link to the website for the church and ossuary, while below is my very first attempt at using a camcorder. The film is a little shaky, might be down to the subject, but let me know what you think of it.


Anyway must sign off now as we have received notification of this year's landmarks for the Round Britain Rally and I have some research to do for it.

4 comments:

Baron's Life said...

This is an amzing piece of historical accounting you did my good friend...I'm just very amazed at how history, culture, stories is passed down the generations... Yes maybe kind of eerie but it's very historicalll You noticed...they must have had motorcycle gangs even back then...Skulls and cross bones...lol
Life never changes ...just evolves... thank you for sharing this story and photographs with us...you are a true scholar...are you an archeologist by any chance?

Affer said...

It is an extraordinary place, and one wonders who all the people were; was it an honour to be scrubbed and bleached and used as a building material? I wonder!

Pam said...

Bizarre and fascinating at the same time. So many reactions to this - bone overkill, bone art, bone-coloured (could put me right off that shade after this), brilliant, sick. I've never seen anything like this - bad feng shui -brrrrr! So glad you posted it though, and rather you than me filming it. Amazing... as in weird amazing.

Baron's Life said...

Haven't seen you on line in a bit...Is everything alright?