What makes an artist? At the Sedlec Ossuary it was the task of maintaining the remains of the dead that inspired the caretaker to create art from the 40,000 bones buried in the ancient crypt.
Femurs and skulls arc over doorways and dangle from the ceiling like party decorations. A chandelier contains at least one of every bone in the human body. Two large crypts contain thousands of bones stacked into pyramids held together without mortar. A large wooden crown above each one symbolizes heaven’s glory, available to those who lead a life without sin. So, the pyramids represent a stairway to heaven.
The Schwarzenbergs, a family of wealthy aristocrats and political leaders, purchased the ossuary, located in Kutna Hora, in 1870 and the caretaker-artist, Frantisek Rint, began his work. (One of the family’s descendants, Karel Schwarzenberg, recently ran for — and lost — the office of president of the Czech Republic.)
At one time Kutna Hora was the second most important place in Bohemia outside of Prague. Rich veins of silver ore ran beneath it, furnishing a desirable role as a working treasury producing coins. When the silver played out, the medieval village became frozen in time.