Kutna Hora and the Bone Church

The weekend brought wonderful weather and a chance to leave the city of Prague.  Off to Kutna Hora, the small village that had been such a big silver mining town in the 1400’s that they were able to build many impressive buildings, such as the cathedral seen in the pictures.

Life as a miner was not easy, so it’s no wonder that the churches and religious monuments were important to the town.  Mining references are everywhere, too.  So it only made sense that we go on the mining tour to learn more about it.  Of course men back then were much smaller, but still the shafts were short and narrow.  The smallest area width was about 16 inches, and the smallest height was about 50 inches, so we had to crouch and turn sideways to access some of the chambers.   (I suggest a cardboard cutout at the gate to prevent tourists from getting wedged down below…)

There were three kinds of mining work: the actual miners down below, the people sorting and hauling the silver above, and the merchants who were exploiting the other two groups.  The miners had to be between 21 and 35, and in good physical shape so that crawling on your hands and knees in the dark or sliding down a 10 foot shaft on your leather apron wasn’t an issue.  The miners had very weak lamps, good for two hours of light, and used their ears and noses to find the silver (which apparently smells like garlic because of the arsenic inside).  There was a watchman keeping track of the number of men who were down below, but keep in mind he was “doing a good job” as long as he lost no more than five miners a day.

After the mine tour, we were off to the Ossuary, or Bone Church.  When faced with the accumulation of bones after the plague and many wars, a half-blind monk decided to arrange them into pyramids, a coat of arms, a chandelier, and other decorations to remind people of their mortality.  The remains are from more than 40,000 people, and he disinfected and whitewashed them all first.  That’s dedication!

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