Today I will tell you about one of the most original monuments of Czech architecture — «Ossuary». It is the chapel in the Cathedral of All Saints. The whole interior of this chapel is made of the shocking material. The altar, chandeliers and paintings are made from human bones. The decoration of the chapel consists of about 40,000 human skeletons.
Ossuary. This word alarms and the sight provoke questionable feelings: something like confusion, horror and reverence.
For modern person with moral standards it is difficult to understand the idea of creating ossuary. It may seem that it is the legacy of a barbaric cult and a total disregard for the deceased. In fact, in this way the citizens have shown respect to the dead.
Ossuary of Kutna Hora was built in the sixteenth century in order to preserve the remains, which were previously buried in the monastery cemetery. Many believe that the bones belong to victims of the plague. Maybe it is because of the fact that there are a lot of «plague column» in the Czech Republic in each city, including Kutna Hora.
This is not true. Plague columns were built in memory of epidemics swept across the Holy Roman Empire a century later (after the Thirty Years War).
The true origin of the ossuary is quite banal. The city was growing and it needed new land for development. People decided to build up the cemetery. But not on the bones of fellow citizens. It is not humanely. That’s why the bones were transferred to the walls of the cathedral, where they began to play a symbolic and spiritual role. Look at the pictures. You see the main motive of the chapel — a skull with crossed tibia below it. This symbol is called Adam’s head. Nowadays we interpret this sign as a symbol of danger and death. But this ancient symbol has a second meaning. According to the most cultures, the skull and crossbones symbolized the ability to corporal recovery, vitality and fortitude in the face of danger. According to the Christian tradition, Adam’s head has a symbolic meaning of liberation from death and salvation in the Christian sense.
— There is death, but also there is salvation.
Through the prism of symbolism Ossuary of Kutna Hora is not only a monument to the dead, but also reassuring lesson for the living people.
Well, on such thoughtful but optimistic note, I am finishing my story about one of the most remarkable monuments of the Czech Republic. Next time I’ll tell you something funny.
Post Scriptum (for those, who are too sensitive and think that such method is too barbaric and doesn’t correspond to European culture).
The biggest ossuary is located in the catacombs of Paris. In these catacombs the bodies of six million Parisians from eighteen cemeteries of the city lie. Moreover, this act was carried out not in Middle Ages, but in a quite civilized 18th century. So, it was about two hundred years ago.
I studied in school, which was built on the old cemetery. I remember when they dug trench for the new gym, they have found graves. And they did not care. After all, it was end of the twentieth century.
In general, civilization, which admires the works of Gunther von Hagens has no moral right to criticize ossuary.