There’s a small chapel in the Czech Republic known as the Sedlec Ossuary beneath the Cemetery Church of All Saints.
The Sedlec Ossuary is not your ordinary crypt chapel. It is made of bones. This underground structure contains the bones of between 40,000 and 70,000 people.
The Sedlec Ossuary has a long—albeit blurry—history. There’s a lot we don’t know about it, but what we do know is fascinating. In the thirteenth century, Abbot Henry, of the Sedlec Monastery, brought some soil back from the grave of our Lord in Jerusalem and scattered the soil throughout the Sedlec cemetery. As a result, the cemetery became one of the most popular burial sites in eastern Europe.
Soon, over 30,000 people were buried in the Sedlec cemetery. Naturally, it began running out of burial space. Around the year 1400, the Sedlec Monastery built a Gothic church in the middle of the cemetery with a vaulted upper level and a chapel in the crypt to house bodies that had to be moved during construction. The Sedlec Monastery also moved all of the older bodies out of their burial sites to the crypt to make room for those who had just died.
In 1870, Frantisek Rint, a local woodcarver, was tasked with reverently arranging the bones in the crypt. The goal was to honor these remains while providing room for those who also wanted to be buried at the holy site. So Frantisek designed many of the pieces of sacred art made out of bones in the chapel today.
The Sedlec Ossuary is visited by over 200,000 people every year, making it one of the most visited attractions in the Czech Republic.