Weird History A Complex Network of Mass Graves Has Been Uncovered Under A Medieval "Bone Church"  

Melissa Sartore
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Sedlec Ossuary is famous for its Church of Bones but recent archaeological finds have added a whole new chapter to its fascinating skeletal story. Located in Kutna Hora outside of Prague, the Sedlec Ossuary Bone Church contains thousands of skulls and human remains - with at least one of each bone in the human body featured in a single chandelier alone. With the discovery of at least 30 mass graves nearby, however, thousands of more bodies are within its proximity. The bodies are yet another discovery from the past with disturbing and sad implications. How did these people die? Who were they? How did they end up in a mass grave to begin with? Read on for answers to some of these peculiar and haunting questions.

Holy Soil From The Crucifixion... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list A Complex Network of Mass Graves Has Been Uncovered Under A Medieval "Bone Church"
Photo:  Tomáš Polenský/YouTube

Holy Soil From The Crucifixion Brought Droves Of Bodies To Sedlec


The first Cistercian monks settled at Sedlec during the mid-12th century. They established a monastery in a well-populated part of Bohemia but there are no records from the first century and a half of the monastic group's time in the region. At some point during the 13th century (the dates vary from early in the century to 1278), the King of Bohemia sent the abbot from the Cistercian monastery to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage. The abbot brought back holy soil from Golgotha where Jesus was supposed to have been crucified. The abbot spread the soil throughout the Sedlec cemetery, making it a holy site and a desirable pilgrimage destination of its own.

During The Late Middle Ages, P... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list A Complex Network of Mass Graves Has Been Uncovered Under A Medieval "Bone Church"
Photo: dixie_law/flickr/CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

During The Late Middle Ages, People Wanted Their Final Resting Place To Be At Sedlec


With the distribution of holy soil at Sedlec, the cemetery became one of the most popular burial sites in Bohemia and the surrounding countries. More and more bodies were interred at Sedlec and soon the cemetery had to be expanded. By 1318, more than 30,000 people were buried at Sedlec and the cemetery had to be expanded.

The Bones Decorating Sedlec Os... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list A Complex Network of Mass Graves Has Been Uncovered Under A Medieval "Bone Church"
Photo:  Markerbuoy - On Canada's Left Coast/YouTube

The Bones Decorating Sedlec Ossuary Are From People Who Wanted To Be Buried There


After the plague ravaged Central Europe, burials at Sedlec increased. During the 14th and 15th centuries, war and disease brought a fresh round of bodies and, to make accommodations, old bodies were removed so new bodies could be buried. The recent addition of a chapel in the cemetery accommodated the skeletal overflow and the bones of the old bodies were taken to the ossuary, or the church's lower chamber. The bodies all remained on holy soil and therefore the wishes of the faithful that wanted to be placed at Sedlec were maintained.

The Bones From The Ossuary Wer... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list A Complex Network of Mass Graves Has Been Uncovered Under A Medieval "Bone Church"
Photo:  Kevin Tarchenski/YouTube

The Bones From The Ossuary Were Organized During The 19th Century


The cemetery was closed late in the 15th century and the bones of some 40,000 people were piled into pyramids in the ossuary. The bones stayed in the ossuary until the Schwarzenberg dynasty took control of the land and they appointed wood-worker František Rint to organize the bones. Rint bleached all of the bones and used his artistic eye to turn the bones into elaborate designs, creative ornaments, and unique decorations. He even crafted the Schwarzenberg family crest out of bones.