We have visited a number of ossuaries since Sedlec and I’ve decided to give each one their own blog post as it just doesn’t seem fitting to describe them all in one fell swoop. Each location was different and had its own charm or impact.
We referred to the Křtiny ossuary as the ‘little ossuary with the big heart’ after reading an excerpt from Atlas Obscura expressing the rejection and neglect that any other ossuary in the Czech Republic feels in comparison to Sedlec. It is truly not difficult to go into these places without grandiose expectations given that our journey is to embrace and experience the differences, meeting all the characters along the way. While small and unassuming, it was absolutely worth the trek. We found this tiny chapel in the basement or perhaps cellar is a more appropriate word, of the unexpectedly amazing Pilgrimage Church of the Virgin Mary. I say unexpectedly because we wound our way through seemingly back roads to the tiny Morovian village about 20 minutes outside Brno and were astonished at both the size and ornate beauty of the structure.
Having learned a lesson from Mělník, I had emailed ahead to ensure access to the crypt and was thankful at having made that decision because there would have been no other way to see it. The pastor, Mr. Krbec (Jan) was a gracious host, providing a tour of the church, discussing its origins, outlining all the renovations and explaining its significance as we expressed surprise at our perceived inconsistency between the size of the village and the size of the church. As a pilgrimage site, there are certain expectations in a house of worship and they make certain there will be no disappointed parishioners here.
As the inside tour wound down, Jan directed us out and around the side of the church toward a tiny, easy overlooked door. Trudging through the couple of fresh inches of snow on the ground in his dress shoes, Jan made a joke about how Morovian he was feeling as he shared that he was originally from Prague and was relatively new to this parish. We reached the opening and found a gate on the other side of the locked door. He found the keys to each of the entrances and we were soon walking through a short narrow passageway.
It opened up into a small, quiet room designed to view and remember these long dead former inhabitants of this small village. It was also our first experience with painted skulls which is rare in the Czech Republic as in, this is the only known place to see it here. If I recall correctly these few were of noble blood and were intended to be properly acknowledged with the designs. As I took (or ongoing, take) photos, I cannot help but ask who they were and what their lives were like. I have no expert knowledge and cannot distinguish male from female skulls (if that’s even a thing). Jan was kind, allowing us time to linger and soak it all in but we were aware that he had other obligations and also did not want to keep him longer than necessary. He didn’t ask for an entrance fee, however, we did make a donation to the organ renovation fund as a thank you for his time.
We left feeling grateful at the human kindness encountered, both in Jan taking time to show us the ossuary and in the loving manner these people were arranged in order to remember and honour the generations prior.