Friday, November 11, 2011

A church with a difference

Last time I was in Europe for a substantial period of time I began suffering from an ailment many of my fellow travellers also seem to be familiar with … chronic fatigue.  It’s an ailment that comes about when you’ve seen too many churches, museums and very old buildings.  The symptoms include looking through your photos and not being able to distinguish one church or old building from another or reading signs only to get to the bottom and not be able to recount anything you just read.  It’s happened to me again and there’s no apparent cure, only time and distancing oneself from said churches, museums and old buildings will cure a sufferer from this ailment.  Unfortunately in Eastern Europe (or any part of Europe for that matter) this is a pretty tough thing to do.  There are churches, museums and old buildings at every turn, there’s no escaping them, so it seems I could be suffering for the foreseeable future.

Every so often however, I am snapped out of this state of fatigue by some really interesting piece of history or an amazing example of architecture.  One such reprieve that brought me out of my illness was a recent trip to the Czech town of Kutna Hora, about 90 minutes and two trains away from Prague.  The town’s only drawcard (especially on a public holiday when I happened to be there) is it’s church or “ossuary”.  This is no ordinary church, like those I have come to loathe, this church is remarkable because it is filled with the bones of 40 000 people. 

The church was built in the 1400’s in the middle of a cemetery and a chapel was built underneath, meant to house the bones from some of the graves that had to be unearthed.  The story goes that in the late 1800’s a local woodcarver decided it would be a good idea to put the bones to good use and the local pastor agreed to a little remodelling.  The result was a massive chandelier, crest and huge bells modelled out of bones.

If nothing else, the trip to Kutna Hora’s church made for an interesting photo opportunity and a nice (if not bizarre) reprieve from the run-of-the-mill baroque/renaissance/gothic churches that are usually must-sees in every European town and city in Europe. 

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