Courtney S. Barr

Welcome to My Kingdom!
Join me, the Princess, on my Royal Adventures in the Land of Writing!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Interesting bit of history....

For the last few weeks the owner's of my company have been touring Europe. On their travels they journeyed to the Czech Republic. John Hickman, knowing my heritage is Czech, took a whole bunch of photos for me. He came back with beautiful landscapes & buildings. But there was one Christian church that really takes the cake. I have attached the story & the pictures to explain them. It is an amazing & freaky building. But the cause & reason for it is more interesting, it will make you think about years before our time, the journey of those with faith, & the ingenuity of the human mind. Enjoy (also with it being Halloween-time, these sort of fit :) )
This Ossuary chapel is located in Kunta Hora. This chapel with its belonging graveyard had become a well-knownand attractive place to get ones relatives buried in a longtime ago. Why you may ask?.. The answer is to be found in the actions of a certain abbot Henry. In theyear of thy lord 1278 the Cistercian abbot Henry embarked on a pilgrimvoyage to the Holy Land (Palestine). This was more or less common practicefor people of the church at the time. What he couldn't have imagined is theeffect a little symbolic deed that he performed would have on the future ofthe little Sedlec church. While in Palestine abbot Henry visited the Golgotha and from there hebrought back to Sedlec a jar full of earth. He referred to this as 'Holy Soil'.When he got back he spread the earth over the Sedlec cemetery and thus thecemetery begun to be considered as a piece of sacred land. The burial groundrapidly became one of the most popular in central Europe and people from allover the country and Europe came to Sedlec to get buried when they felt thestrength of life diminishing. Many brought their dead relatives or friendsto be buried in the holy soil of the Sedlec cemetery believing that the holynessof the ground was a sure way to guarantee the buried a place in heaven.Many corpses and bones were accumulated this way and especially during thetimes of the plague (the black death) many who were about to die from thedisease came themselves to be buried in Sedlec. By 1318 over 30 000 bodieswere buried there and this gave rise to the creation of the ossuary. The ossuary is located in the All Saints' Chapel built around 1400.The chapel is still surrounded by a functioning graveyard and if youtake a careful look at the top of its towers you will see thatthat a "jolly roger", or a skull and crossbones, replace the usual Christiancross. The ossuary itself dates from 1511 when a half-blind monkwas given the task to gather the bones from the abolished graves andputting them in the crypt to make place for new "customers". The taskmay seem somewhat macabre and unenviable but it served a practicalpurpose. Anyhow - now the material was in store and waiting for anidea and someone to realize that idea. A more questionable task than the one of the half-blind monk was the one of the local woodcarver who as late as 1870 was hired to decorate the inside of the Chapel with the human material (an approximate of40 000 sets of human bones) at his disposal. The name of the artist was Frantisek Rindt and the employer was the Duke (Prince?) ofShwartzenberg. The coats of arms of the family Shwartzenberg was one of the creations evolved from the artists mind. Another one isthe chandelier which contains every human bone in the body, severaltimes over, of course. However questionable the Ossuary - it is real. The bones are real.The feeling of death is real. But also the feeling of peace.Most of the dead in the Ossuary died a "natural" i.e. non-violentdeath and the bones were removed from the ground to give moreChristians the possibility to be buried on holy ground.I'd like to stress the fact that the church is not made of bonesas so many seem to think! The interior is decorated with humanbones but it's a "normal" church made of stone and bricks. I'd also like to point out that it's a normal Christian church supporting and teaching the followings of Christ. It's not some weird cult or Satanist church or anything like that.

It is actually an amazing thing. These people came to this place to die believing it to be holy land. The Christian faith teaches you that your body may lay in the ground returning 'to dust' but the soul separates and journeys to its destination. The idea that they removed the bones from the ground in order to fulfill other's needs to be buried on this now holy land is remarkable. Many people would have removed the bones & just disposed of them, cremated or just 'dumped' them out in the country. But to me it appears that by keeping them on this land even when the graves were full by putting them in the church is very respectful. Eerie, but respectful. :) I thought it an interesting bit of history to share...

No comments:

Post a Comment

The Princess is what's up?