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Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Bone Church

While we were in the Czech Republic, we took a day trip to Kutna Hora.  This city was once home to the world's largest silver mine.  Silver was discovered in the area around 1260 AD.  At the end of the 13th century, the mine provided about one third of European production of silver.  At the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries, the mine attained a depth of 500 meters and was the deepest mine in the world at the time.  Because of its wealth, Kutna Hora became the second most important city in the Kingdom of Bohemia, after Prague.  The wealth of the local mines formed the basis of power for the Bohemian kings.  The standard coinage for much of Europe was minted here.  By about 1700, the mine played out and the city lost its source of revenue.  Now Kutna Hora has a population of about 20,000.

Today, Kutna Hora is the home to biggest tobacco processor in the country and is Philip Morris' headquarters for Central Europe. 

Kutna Hora has St. Barbara's Cathedral, the silver mine, and of course--the Sedlac Bone Church.

 Countryside between Prague and Kutna Hora
 Countryside between Prague and Kutna Hora
 Sedlac Bone Church:  The Sedlac Monastery was founded near Kutna Hora in 1142.  Inside this small church are the bones of 40,000 people.  The bones were used to decorate the walls and ceilings.  The 14th century plagues and the 15th century wars provided the raw material necessary for the creative monks who made the designs.  Those who first placed these bones 400 years ago wanted viewers to remember that the earthly church is a community of both the living and the dead.  Later bone-artists were more interested in design than theology.
 Not your normal coat-of-arms but interesting.
 Pyramid of Bones
  Amazing how many bones were used to make this pyramid.  Thousands of people died to provide the materials to build it.  There are several of these pyramids in the church.
 Ceiling decorations
Enlarge the picture to get a better understanding of what it took create it.
 This bone chandelier contains every bone in the human body.  Wouldn't you like to have this chandelier light up the entry way in your house?
 Part of the bone pyramid
 Skulls with obvious signs of mortal wounds.  (Enlarge)  Some were hit with battle axes, others with arrows, maces and some with clubs.
 A lamp or goblet bordered by skull and crossbone art
 Monument in Kutna Hora
 The Italian Court
This palace, located on the site where Czech currency was once made, became Europe's most important mint and the main residence of Czech kings in the 1400's.

The statue in front is Tomas Masaryk.  He was the George Washington of Czechoslovakia.  Masaryk founded the first democracy in Eastern Europe at the end of WWI, uniting the Czechs and the Slovaks.  Interesting trivia:  Masaryk is one of only 3 foreign leaders to have a statue in Washington, DC.  (The other 2 are Gandhi and Winston Churchill)
 Kutna Hora
 Kutna Hora
 St. Barbara's Cathedral and the former Baroque Jesuit college
 St. Barbara's Cathedral (St Barbara is the patron saint of miners which makes sense for Kutna Hora).  It was founded in 1388.
 Street leading to St. James Church.  Notice that the bell tower on the right was never completed.  The weight caused the foundation beneath the church to settle because the entire town is built over the silver mine below.
 Street in Kutna Hora
Stone Fountain--Because of the mining under the town, Kutna Hora has always struggled with obtaining clean drinking water.  Water was brought to town by a system of water pipes and then stored in large tanks.  This 12-sided Gothic structure was built in the 15th century and put over one of the water storage tanks.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


 For our anniversary this year, we went to Prague in the Czech Republic.  This makes 31 years and counting.  Who would have guessed that she would still be with me after all of this time?

Prague is an interesting city.  It received some damage during WWII but for the most part, it survived very well--especially compared to most of the major European cities.  Most of the buildings were left undamaged and as a result, it is beautiful.

Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic and fourteenth largest city in the European Union. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava River, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its suburb bring the population estimate to nearly 2 million.  The city has a temperate climate with warm summers and chilly winters.
Prague has been a political, cultural, and economic center of central Europe during its 1,100 year existence. Prague was the seat of two Holy Roman Emperors and thus the capital of the Holy Roman Empire. It was an important city in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and after World War I became the capital of Czechoslovakia. The city played major roles in the Protestant Reformation and the Thirty Years' War. Prague is home to a number of famous cultural attractions. Main attractions include the following: Prague Castle, the Charles Bridge, Old Town Square, and the Jewish Quarter. The extensive historic center of Prague is a World Heritage Site.

We stayed in this nice hotel.  Mel is standing in the courtyard.  This was the residence of Amadeus W. Mozart when he lived in Prague.
 Outside of our hotel
 Charles Bridge over the Vltava River with Prague Castle in the background
 Vltava River in Prague
 Bridge Tower at one end of the Charles Bridge
 Charles Bridge--it was packed with vendors and tourists
There are many statues on the bridge.
 Rubbing the base of the statues for good luck
 Check out the figures that the people rub for good luck
 Prague Castle
 Prague Castle and Charles Bridge at night
 Beautiful old building
 Typical street in Prague
 Another beautiful old building
 Church of our Lady (Tyn Church) in the Old Town Square
 Old Town Square
 Old Town Square
 Old Town Square
 Hanging out in Prague
 Prague Astronomical Clock was first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still working.
 Standing in front of the Prague Astronomical Clock
 Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square
 Bohemian Crystal
 The Czech people are famous for their puppeteers
 Emperor Charles
 View of Charles Bridge and the Prague Castle
Charles University in Prague, founded in 1348, it was the first university in Central Europe
 Professors (?) taking a break.
 Jewish Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter
 Church where we heard a concert
 Church in Prague

Wenceslas Square