Our European Odyssey

This blog covered our month-long trip to Eastern Europe -- specifically the countries of Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Austria and Slovakia.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Chilled to the Bones

Yesterday was our day trip to Kutna Hora, site of the Sedlec Ossuary. (See previous post.)

We arrived in Kutna Hora at about 9 a.m. and had great intentions to see Mass in Czech at one of the local churches. The train station is at the far eastern side of town, and seemingly all the churches are at the far western side -- about three miles away. So we started speedwalking in hopes of making 10 a.m. Mass. (By the way, we actually had no idea what time Mass started. Andrea just assumed that in a town with several Catholic churches, at least one would have a late Mass.)

After checking a couple of other churches, we rushed up to St. Barbara's just in time for 10 o'clock Mass -- only to find out there was no 10 o'clock Mass. In fact, only two churches in Kutna Hora have Mass -- at 7 and 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Let's just say Andrea was a bit perturbed. She had put on makeup (for the first time on our trip) just for the occasion.

Despite the town's insufficient Mass schedule, we forged on with our day. We entered St. Barbara's Cathedral, yet another large and beautiful Catholic church. Much of the artwork in the church portrays miners, as the town was founded because of its extensive silver mine. The church's namesake, St. Barbara, is the patron saint of miners. Some of the pieces in the church date back to the 1300s. It's always amazing to see something so old.

Then, to get to the ossuary, we had to walk the three miles back across town. It was such a pleasant stroll -- as the temperature dropped and the wind picked up. As quickly as our legs could carry us, we made it to the Sedlec Ossuary.

The ossuary grounds became the vogue place to be buried after a monk sprinkled dirt from Calvary at the site in the 13th century. Eventually, there was no more fresh dirt to bury people (thanks in part to the Plague.)

So what do you do when you have more human bones than you know what to do with? Why, you arrange them to form pyramids and other artworks.

The ossuary contains four huge unbraced pyramids apparently made only of skulls and femurs, a chandelier that contains at least one of every bone in the body,a very detailed coat of arms and other smaller works. All told there are bones from some 40,000 people in the chapel. It's an unusual sight but a stark reminder of human mortality.

After taking the train back to Prague, we restarted our mission to hear Mass in Czech. We went to a tourist information center and learned that the historic Loretta Church would be holding Mass at 6 p.m. However, it was 5:20, and the church was about two miles away up the very steep Castle Hill. It's a good thing we stay in shape.

Who would have guessed we would be booking it around two different towns to try to make it to Mass?

The Mass was said in Czech by a monk from the nearby Capuchin Monastery, but the music was sung in Latin by a choir, with accompaniment provided by an organist and a trumpeter. The singing was absolutely beautiful, and it was enhanced by the acoustics in the church. Although maybe 20 people were in attendance, the Mass was quite long -- an hour and 15 minutes. They also used incense at many times during the service. It was certainly done differently than American Masses. We're glad we made it.

So our day ended the way it began -- with us rushing around madly to make church services in a language we don't understand.


At 9:46 AM, June 05, 2006, Anonymous ginger said...

All of those things made out of actual human bones is very interesting. I went to a few different churches while in France, and it is definitely a great part of the culture to experience!



At 11:54 AM, June 05, 2006, Anonymous Josh said...

The ossuary looks very interesting. The naked baby cupid-like things sitting on the bone chandelier definitely look out of place though!

Hope everything is still going well. Touring in cold weather sounds awesome right now.

At 5:42 PM, June 05, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Loving your blog and beautiful photo's. What an awesome way to create a trip diary - much more fun than the old pen and college ruled notepad!
Your cousin - Cathy Statler


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