by chelsea schuyler
Like I even need to write – but I will. So there’s this ossuary (stop me if you’ve heard this one)…what’s an ossuary? It should be an ostrich sanctuary, but in fact it’s a room where they cram the exhumed bones of bodies if there becomes too many for the cemetery to handle. Scariest. Basement. Ever. But ‘A’ for economy of space. Anyway, this is the Kostnice Ossuary aka, the Sedlec Ossuary, in the Czech Republic. One of the most artistic in the world.
The boxer brief: one day, in 1278, the Bohemian king sent this monk dude to the Holy Land of Palestine. Dude took some dirt, came back, and spread it over this one cemetery. Suddenly being buried there was all the rage. Corpses came from all over, including many from the plague (yes, THE plague, of the Black variety) and the Hussite wars (the what-ite wars? basically, followers of Jan Hus, a predecessor to Protestants, got peeved when the Catholics burned him at the stake. Imagine. -ite wars). 40,000-70,000 people, for those counting. Crowded. So, in 1400 another dude built a church with an ossuary underneath, which, legend has it, a half-blind monk began to desperately organize a century later. In 1870, a wood-carver named Frantisek Rint monster-mashed them all into these beautiful skullptures, starting with four enormous bell-shaped mounds in the corners. He even signed his name in bones on one of the walls. The bone signature is where I have to say, I might have drawn the line (oh ho! that was such a deep pun right there, don’t miss it).
So there you have it, ingenious usage of excessive morbidity. An ossuary that totally wants to pass a note middle-school style to Martha Stewart that says “Do you like me? ◊ yes ◊ no.” It’s open for visitors April thru October (best Halloween visit ever), Mon-Sat. Oddly closed Sunday.