Sedlec Ossuary – Why Dead People Make the Most Fabulous Decorations

sedlec ossuary
Sedlec Ossuary- looking up at the Chandelier made from at least one of every bone in the human body.
A whole pile of bones at Sedlec Ossuary
Bring out your dead – a whole pile of bones at Sedlec Ossuary
The shield is a favourite of mine at the Sedlec Ossuary, Kutna Hora
Human bone shield – it’s a favourite of mine at the Sedlec Ossuary, Kutna Hora

The Sedlec Ossuary– or “Bone Church”, located in the town of Kutna Hora, an hour or so from Prague, is amazing for two reasons. First, it’s decorated with the bones of 70,000 dead plague infected humans. Second, Sedlec Ossuary was the subject of an article I did on the very first day of Yomadic. And well, that first post is the only page on Yomadic where nobody left a single comment. I took this to heart. There was only one thing to do. A couple of weeks ago, I returned to the Sedlec Ossuary,  to redeem myself.

That first Sedlec Ossuary article was entirely presented with grainy, moody, good old fashioned black and white film (film that was produced locally in the Czech Republic no less). I felt the result perfectly complimented the mood of the somewhat macabre and mysterious Sedlec Ossuary. This time around, I used my Fuji Xpro1, a digital camera. But, it almost didn’t work out this way.

sedlec ossuary bones
Bones, bones, bones, bones.
Nice window, sweet bone detail - Sedlec Ossuary
Nice window, sweet bone detail – Sedlec Ossuary
This shot I made just to compare digital to same view, taken on my film camera the last time I was here.
This shot I made to compare digital to same pic, taken on my film camera the last time I was here. Hmmm intriguing… (strokes chin)

I have been known to rabbit on about the incredible of Fuji X-Pro 1, calling it the best travel camera of 2012. I still hold this opinion. However, I still prefer the look, feel, and beauty, of black and white film. So, the day before I visited Sedlec Ossuary this time around, I purchased a new camera from one of my favourite camera shops in the world, located in downtown Prague.

Please excuse this interruption, but, you probably need a vacation, and for a very short time I'm taking 400 EURO off the price of my final Iran Untours for 2017...join us:

It was glorious. A forty-year-old Yashica medium-format twin-lens reflex film camera. Complete with leather case flocked with red velvet. The kind and attractive young lady that served me really knew her stuff. We went over every function, tested every lever, pushed every button, then I loaded some film, paid her for her troubles, and hit the streets outside. It was time to get some street shots in – before heading to the Sedlec Ossurary to take the best photos that I am humanly capable of.

Every views a winner baby, that's no lie (that's no lie). Sedlec Ossuary, ceiling bones.
Every views a winner baby, that’s no lie (that’s no lie). Sedlec Ossuary, ceiling bones.
Hi! I'm a human bone angel! Sedlec Ossuary, Kutna Hora, Czech Republic.
Hi! I’m a human bone angel! Sedlec Ossuary, Kutna Hora, Czech Republic.
Jesus Sedlec Ossuary
JESUS CHRIST! Sedlec Ossuary

Outside the camera shop, I had just one look through the huge Yashica finder, and was smitten. As I do with every new film camera I buy, the first thing I did was to take a photo of Phillipa. I then handed her my digital Fuji, and delicately explained that my new/old camera would be the number one priority in my life for the next ten years, probably more.

Phillipa would need to take over the day-to-day photography duties of Yomadic, to allow me to concentrate on producing medium-format film photos of some merit. And, this would take time, as I had already mentioned. Was she even listening to me?

About 4 photos later, maybe twenty minutes had passed, strolling around the fairy-tale old city of Prague, the camera malfunctioned. It wouldn’t wind on the film. I had owned my new favourite camera for less than half an hour. It was a new record.

I returned to the shop, a non-English speaking technician inspected the camera. When he spoke to me, the only words I could understand were “transport malfunction”. The shop refunded my money, I shrugged my shoulders and took the Fuji back from Phillipa.

Sedlec Ossuary Row of Skull and Bones
What’s an acceptable number of Sedlec Ossuary photos? A billion.
sedlec ossuary - scenic angles
Sedlec Ossuary, looking up again.
Presented without comment. The Sedlec Ossuary - Kutna Hora.
Presented without comment. The Sedlec Ossuary – Kutna Hora.
Yep, they're real.
Yep, they’re real.
sedlec ossuary 7
It be gettin’ all skull crazy up in hurrr ( translation).
Sedlec Ossuary bone stack. One of four.
Sedlec Ossuary bone stack. One of four.

So, it was off to Sedlec Ossuary, with the Fuji X-Pro 1 digital camera. Instead of a roll of 12 photos, I had about 800 shots left on my memory card. Auto-focus, auto-white-balance, auto-dynamic-range, and auto-exposure, F2 and good for ISO 2500, it all ensured that every photo would come out perfectly. Still, a little piece of me still wished I had an old fashioned film camera on hand.

Sedlec Ossuary – Some Basic Practical Info

The Ossuary is open daily except 24th and 25th of December

November – February: 9am – 4pm
April – September: 8am – 6pm (9am – 6pm on Sundays)
October & March: 9am – 5pm

Entrance fee:
Adults 60 CZK
Students 40 CZK

Roman Catholic Parish
Kutná Hora – Sedlec
284 03 Kutná Hora – Sedlec
Phone: +420 326 551 049


Sedlec Ossuary taught me two things. First, film may look incredible, but digital is pretty damn sweet as well. Secondly, speaking of sweet, I’m an absolute sucker for anything decorated with human bones.

I love the Sedlec Ossuary so much.

I’ll return again, and next time, it’s back to film.

Comments are more than welcome. ;)


PS, I considered titling this piece “Sedlec Ossuary – I Even The Score With 70,000 Dead Humans”.  

PPS, there is no chance I could have taken these photo’s without learning how to get out of auto first. This is my number one recommendation for improving your travel photography.  You got a Fuji? Cool. Check the link, and your photos will pop.

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21 thoughts on “Sedlec Ossuary – Why Dead People Make the Most Fabulous Decorations

    1. Thanks Fool… yes, it’s a great little town. Apart from the Sedlec Ossuary, there is an amazing cathedral, and some interesting soviet-era blocks (if you’re into that sort of thing).

  1. There are places around the world which used human skull as one of the most important parts of the structure. But this one is truly special! I’ve never heard of this place before, but I’ve made it one of the places I really want to see.

  2. I don not understand how you can associate “human” (as in bones) with decoration. Trivial and superficial.

  3. I have just found your site today and am loving it! I went here back in 2005 (hmm, or 2004) and your photos really capture the memories in my head perfectly! Thank you so much for that as my ex-hubby got all of my actual ones (photos that is, not memories, haha)!

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