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02/22/2013

Kutna Hora

By Eleanor Klibanoff, George Washington University

Prague has a lot of churches—it really earns the nickname “City of a Thousand Spires.” It’s hard to imagine you could ever see them all, even if you devoted all your time here to just visiting places of worship. But before we could even scratch the surface of the Prague church scene, CIEE was packing us up and taking us to see other churches in other cities in the Czech Republic. We went to Kutna Hora, a town located an hour outside of the city. Kutna Hora is most famous for it’s two main churches, which are very, very different from each other.

In the morning, we went to the Cathedral of St. Barbara, which is a gothic church from the 1300’s. It is huge and incredibly beautiful. From the outside, it is best appreciated at a distance. The flying buttresses, the stained glass and the stonework make for an impressive site high up on a hill. The inside has countless frescos and paintings, generally depicting St. Barbara, the patron saint of miners. Since Kutna Hora is a silver mining town, it’s easy to see why they chose her as the namesake for their largest church.

After a delicious lunch break, we ventured to the second church, which is unlike any church I’ve ever been to. During the plague and the Hussite wars, so many people died that they were unable to bury all the bodies properly. Eventually, the bones were used to decorate this otherwise plain church. The remains of over 60,000 people create the chandelier, coat of arms and geometric decorations around the church. Some areas just have piles of bones while others used the skulls to create strange towers. The whole thing is incredibly strange, but also makes you realize how destructive the plague must have been. These are the remains of those who couldn’t be buried, meaning thousands more had already died at that point.

The trip to Kutna Hora was interesting, mainly just to show the difference between the two main city attractions. It’s hard to believe that the Cathedral of St. Barbara and the Bone Church are right down the road from each other, but it did make for an fascinating comparison!

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