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For several years, we had heard about the village of Kutna Hora, about an hour east of Prague and its growing popularly among tourists. On a trip to Czechia (or the Czech Republic), a Kutna Hora day trip was a high priority.
From 1260 through the 1800s, the town and surrounding countryside was the site of one of the largest and most advanced silver mining operations in all of Europe, and the city rivaled Prague for prominence. The town also reminded us a lot of Banska Stiavnica in nearby Slovakia, which makes sense give their similar mining histories.
But today, most tourists to the Czech Republic (including us!) come to Kutna Hora to visit the small Sedlec Ossuary, or bone church, filled with the bones and skulls of nearly 70,000 plague victims. Coming here was a last-minute decision, and we’re glad we made the trip.
The bone church is definitely among the more unusual churches we’ve visited.
Around 1350, the plague descended on the town and gave it the raw materials that would eventually put it on the map. In 1511, a half-blind monk was tasked with exhuming the bones and assembling them inside the church in some kind of order. Then, in 1870, a woodcarver organized the bones into their current configuration.
We got up early and took the first Prague to Kutna Hora train. We wanted to get there before too many of the other people taking a day trip from Prague arrived. The early trains leaving from Prague and the return trains at the end of the day can be quite full.
Once we got to the town, we immediately visited the bone church. It was winter and the cemetery was coated in a couple of inches of fresh snow.
Inside, we were greeted by human bones everywhere. The bones are put together into various decorations, such as a chandelier featuring every bone in the human body, and large bone piles arranged in the four corners of the church.
Having been to catacombs from Peru to Paris, we were expecting a lot more bones and the site to be much bigger. Although the site is smaller than we imagined, the intrigue of the unusual, artistic arrangements gives you something to ponder everywhere you look.
After the Bone Church, we crossed the main street and saw the Cathedral of Assumption of Our Lady. This is a much more modern and architecturally colder building, rebuilt in the Baroque style and consecrated in 1905. Despite being part of the Sedlec UNESCO World Heritage Site, we found this church to be skippable.
The main town is another two kilometers down the road (we took the local public bus, which took us about 20 minutes). Since we were here during the off-season, there really weren’t many options for lunch. We ate at Hotel and Restaurant U Hrncire. We both had the pork tenderloin in mushroom complete with three massive mounds of mashed potatoes. The meal was huge and cheap.
In the old town of Kutna Hora is the other reason people visit this little town – the Church of St. Barbara.
This massive gothic cathedral from the 14thcentury comes complete with flying buttresses that even the Notre Dame in Paris would be jealous of! It is obvious to see why this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We were blown away by the amazing stained glass windows that were unlike any we remember seeing before. Instead of having colored glass melted into frames, the glass was actually painted.
While the windows are only a little over 100 years old (they were replaced), the effect is stunning! The rest of the church is much older and speaks to the mining wealth of the region and many of the frescoes pay homage to that heritage.
Getting to Kutna Hora
The train from Prague to Kutna Hora main station takes about one hour. Once you get to the main Kutna Hora station, you quickly change to the local train and go one more stop to the Sedlec station (which is no more than a wide spot at the end of a dead-end road).
From there, there aren’t any signs, but you walk up the lane towards the massive the church. Once you come to the main road, there is a Tourist Information office across the street when you can buy your tickets to the three sites in town and get oriented. A handy three-site pass is available, which provides a small discount.
If you are visiting Kutna Hora in better weather, tours of the silver mines are also available in summer.