The Great European Adventure

Happy Halloween!

We interrupt the somewhat chronological order of this blog to bring you a very special Halloween post.

Now, I will admit to not being the biggest fan of this holiday. I’ve never been one for big Halloween parties, I come up with good costume ideas, but don’t execute them, and, most importantly, I miss trick or treating… So, I wasn’t too bothered by the idea of not celebrating this year. After all, I don’t really have room in my backpack to carry around a costume.

But then, this past weekend (Halloweekend, if you will) I took a tour of Kutna Hora, a small city, and UNESCO World Heritage Site, about an hour train ride outside of Prague. And friends, the highlight of visiting Kutna Hora is seeing its world famous bone chapel (officially known as the Sedlec Ossuary).


Unassuming from the outside… (also it was snowing in October, nbd)

But inside…


That’s me looking mildly unnerved under a chandelier made out of bones.




The story of the Sedlec Ossuary is that in 1278, an abbot made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and returned with some earth (some holy land, ha!) which he placed in his abbey’s cemetery in Sedlec. When people found out about the abbot’s actions, this cemetery became a very desirable place to be buried. However, after the Black Death and the Hussite Wars, so many people had died and were buried there that the cemetery needed to be expanded. People were essentially being added to a mass grave from which their skeletons were exhumed when a gothic church was to be built there in 1400. The plans for the church were altered to include an ossuary that would house the many skeletons and the job of carefully stacking said skeletons was given to a half-blind monk (you can’t make this stuff up) in 1511. Finally, in 1870, Frantisek Rint, a woodcarver, was hired to make the skeletons into some sort of visually appealing, if macabre, order.


Rint was employed by the Schwarzenberg family, who even narcissistically had him construct their family crest from bones.


The bird’s tail feathers are made of the femurs of babies…


Let’s hope that’s the creepiest thing I ever write on this blog.


There are four of these piles of bones in each corner of the ossuary, and I was amazed to learn that there is no glue or cement holding them in place, just the wooden frame and the careful way in which they’ve been piled up. The crown on top is meant to represent the kingdom of heaven where all of these people strove to end up.

It is a church, after all.


How are you celebrating Halloween this year?

Emma Holliday is well-traveled. After 5 years in Boston, she and her husband upended their lives to move to Berlin where she is currently writing a (funny) book about travel and grief and attempting to learn German.

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