We chose our hotel in Kutna Hora for its proximity to the ossuary as it was literally right next door. I cannot say that we walked around the town that night, rather, we chose to stay inside catching up on writing and sleep in order to conserve energy for the big day. Sedlec was/is to me, the Mecca of all ossuaries and I wanted to ensure I was fully prepared to engage and experience this place of reverence and respect.
We awoke the next morning and agreed the best approach was to be the first ones through the door of the crypt that day. Unfortunately, or in the end, fortunately, I was still finishing a stubborn post from the night before and we ended up missing a tour bus full of people as a result. Since we were late anyway, it became an opportunity to freshen up, I even put on a bit of make-up and sported a new dress for what I can only describe as the best date ever. Cameron, unlike a child on Christmas morning, surrendered to the fact that we were not going to be the first in and complimented me on how I looked. Holding hands we raced down the street toward Sedlec…that part is not true whatsoever but I liked the picture it painted in my brain. We did opt to enter from the front main gate instead of the closer side entrance; it was hard to miss the skull & crossbones welcoming from the top of the walls. Tents and tarps surrounded the building and we recognized that upgrades were being made in the off-season.
The doors to the ossuary stood wide open as we tried not to look around before paying but the feat was unmanageable. I asked the cashier what she thought of the place and in her broken English she replied that it was nothing, she was born in Kutna Hora and that she was used to it. That itself is a subject that Cameron and I discuss daily, being the wide eyed, slack jawed Canadians soaking in the sights every single day of this trip thus far.
Immediately upon entry, ornate decorations made from human bones beckoned us further into the crypt with skulls and crossbones marking the entrance. We stood in the stairwell for a few minutes trying to take it all in. Not being able to decide what to take a picture of first and realizing this was just the beginning, I recall snapping a photo of the closest creation just to get my feet moving down the stairs. I heard a voice sounding like my own whisper, “Babe, you have to see this,” knowing full well that he would indeed see it all in due course. I couldn’t stop myself as the vault was a sight to behold from floor to ceiling. The next thing I photographed was the signature of František Rint a woodcarver and carpenter who was commissioned to create this masterpiece by the Schwarzenberg family from the region. It is actually their coat of arms he recreated that you will see in some of the photos.
We took our time; how much of it, I actually cannot recall. Many people came and went as we ambled through the 4 chambers, hell bent on taking our time in order to capture every detail, yet no words were exchanged as we seemed to agree silently on this directive. I do not seek to describe each of the displays or what I felt Mr. Rint was trying to accomplish with this exhibition, I took pictures and can share those without straining myself too much. It is the non-physical experience that I would rather expound upon.
Before we left, my coach Janet and I discussed the concept of taking some quiet time in each of these sacred spaces where people remain. I have never experienced what I would consider to be communication from another realm but I think this is because I have watched too many movies and my expectations are completely off. Here, I was drawn to the chandelier at the epicenter, returning to stand amid the pillars a number of times without intending to be there on any of the occasions. From the moment of our arrival, I had been aware that I was physically reacting, my heartrate increased with each step down into the crypt and I did experience a bit of blurred vision, I’m assuming just from the adjustment of my eyes to the light and not from a few rogue tears. As I stood quietly beneath the skulls and other bones used to construct this masterpiece, I closed my eyes and found myself talking (in English and in my head so it was more of a sharing of thoughts than an outright discussion). I felt a presence, not an individual, rather the sense of something larger. Perhaps the feeling of the entire population of people who had been buried here. I was not scared and found myself expressing this. I thanked them for their contribution to my experience and conveyed my love to them. Afterward, I stood and really looked at each of the skulls within my close proximity, thinking about who these people truly were in their day to day lives.
We eventually found ourselves walking toward the entrance stairs, wistfully glancing back at the cavern of beauty and death, snapping a few last photos on the way out. Arriving outside, I asked if we could walk around the grounds. It seemed that Cameron felt the same desire to continue the journey as he agreed quickly and without hesitation. We strolled amid the burial plots and marveled at how quickly the earth reclaims its own.
Not one to betray the privacy within my relationship with Cameron, I will simply express that sharing this event with the man I love and with whom I share a deep bond on the subject of skulls, death and dying (among other things of course) was one of the deepest and closest experiences I’ve experienced with another human being. It truly was the best date ever.