Skeletons in your closet

Kutna Hora Travel Blog

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We got up and asked what time breakfast would be on, and we were told it would be served at 8am, so we got ready and headed on up the stairs at about 8.30 to find nothing there. Without going in to too much detail, by 9.30 the breakfast was only half there and Cam was not in a good mood. It did not help at all that the poor boy who had been left in charge of the hotel could not really speak to most of the guests who were there complaining. With some food in us we headed out to the tourist information to find out the best way to get to Kutna Hora. We walked out to the train station and caught the train through to Kolin where we changed for Kutna Hora. Kutna Hora is approximately 75kms from Prague in the Central Bohemian region of Bohemia, and has been a UNSECO world heritage site since 1995. A short walk from the train station we came across the Monastic Church of The Assumption of Our Lady is the largest building in Gothic style in the Czech lands and the convent complex is the first Cistercian monastery established on Bohemia soil (we have visited the only 2 Cistercian Abbey’s in Scotland also). The monastery was established in 1142 in Sedlec (part of Kutna Hora now) and the church was built between 1282 and 1320 as a cathedral with gallery and was surrounded by a ring of chapels. We explored the cathedral from the crypt underground to the eaves in the roof.

Down the road from the cathedral is the infamous Ossuary, the proper name of the ‘bone church’ is the Chapel of All Saints (kaple všech svatých). When a handful of earth from the holy-land was sprinkled over the surrounding graveyard, the chapel shot to stardom as the hippest resting place for the rich and famous. As war and plague came and went the new burials outgrew the space available, and the older bones were removed and stored in the crypt of the chapel. An urban myth says that a monk went mad and made sculptures from the bones, but the present appearance is the work of a woodcarver named František Rint who was commissioned in 1870 to decorate the chapel. His fantastic creations include a coat of arms of the local aristocratic Schwarzenberg family and a chandelier that contains every bone in the human body. There are 40,000 human skeletons decorating this chapel, but it did all seem a bit surreal when they were positioned into artistic designs.

We were getting a bit hungry after our small breakfast so we popped in to the tourist information and got a map of the town, before walking down the road to Kutna Hora proper. We figured we would know when we were at the main square, but unfortunately NOTHING was open and there were loads of road works going on so we managed to wander around most of the town without realising what we were looking at. We walked through the main square and back past the church of St James, past the silver mine which the town is famous for and up to the Church of St Barbra. Silver was discovered in Kutna Hora in the 10th century after which a mint was set up in the town. The old mine can now be explored by visitors. The St. Barbara's Church is one of the most famous Gothic churches in central Europe and it is a UNESCO world heritage site. St Barbara is the patron saint of miners (among others), which was highly appropriate for a town whose wealth was based entirely upon its silver mines. Construction began in 1388, but because work on the church was interrupted several times, it was not completed until 1905. The first architect was probably Johann Parler, son of Peter Parler, but studies say that Peter Parler had participated at least as a co-author of the draft design. Work on the building was interrupted for more than 60 years during the Hussite Wars and when work resumed in 1482, Matěj Rejsek and Benedikt Rejt, two architects from Prague, assumed responsibility. The original design was for a much larger church, perhaps twice the size of the present building. Construction, however, depended on the prosperity of the town's silver mines, which became much less productive. So, in 1588, the incomplete structure was enclosed by a provisional wall until 1884 and the roof was unfinished until the 19th century. The outside appearance is fascinating. Originally there were eight radial chapels with trapezoidal interiors. Later on, the choir was constructed, supported by double-arched flying buttresses. Would you believe not one of these tourist sites had a café, and our stomachs were grumbling as we trudged back down the hill.

We finally came across a café which revitalised us with panini’s, coffee and cake, before we realised that we had managed to see the town in about an hour, so we headed back for the train. When we got to our platform we realized that the train we hoped to catch did not run on a Saturday so we got to practice our salsa for an hour till the next one came along. We both fell asleep on the train ride back which eliminated our ideas of a big night out. We grabbed a bite at a restaurant called Einstein’s and legged it home for the night.
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Kutna Hora
photo by: Stevie_Wes