Over one thousand years ago, Kutna Hora was one of the wealthiest and most influential cities in Europe and was a rival to Prague. It attained this status because of the huge deposits of silver found and mined in the area.
The silver was originally found near the monastery in 1260 and the town grew in size and wealth for many years. It was considered one of the most prominent and economically significant towns in the Bohemian Kingdom during the Middle Ages.
Present day Kutna Hora no longer mines silver. In 1541, the main mine was flooded and could no longer be mined. This led to a gradual decline of the industry. By the end of the 1800s, the mines were completely closed. Nowadays, the town is famous because of its many interesting historical attractions and it is within a relatively short drive of approximately 65 kilometers east of Prague.
It is most famous for the Sedlec Ossuary, a site containing human skeletal remains. The ossuary is situated in the basement of the gothic chapel next to the baroque Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.
In 1278, the Abbott of the chapel brought some soil back from Golgotha (Calvary) and sprinkled it over the cemetery. Many people considered the cemetery grounds were now part of the Holy Land and it became one of the most desired places to be buried.
Its popularity, as well as the huge number of people dying at that time from the plague, resulted in over 30000 people being interred here. To cope with such a large number of deceased, the cemetery had to be rearranged and expanded. Many of the old bones were left stacked up on each other.
Then in the beginning of the 1500s, a Cistercian monk decided to take the bones and creatively incorporate them into features such as a chandelier, which is reported to have every bone in the human body. Many of the interior decorations are fashioned out of the bones, including a chalice, crosses, and there is even a coat of arms belonging to the family who once owned the church.
Other interesting places to visit in Kutna Hora include the Italian Court, an unusual name considering it was once the Czech Royal mint and the Royal Palace of the kings of Bohemia. Its name originates from the workers who came from Florence to mint the coins.
St. Barbara's Cathedral, built in the late gothic style, is extremely large and was constructed in 1380 and took nearly 200 years to complete. It is truly a magnificent structure. Pay particular attention to the roof and the detailed designs and artwork adorning the interior. Some of the frescoes are particularly interesting as they give an insight into the everyday life of the townspeople in medieval Kutna Hora.
The Church of St James is also worth visiting with its 83 meter tower and the Gothic Stone Haus is a museum which holds one of the best archives in the country.
As you may expect with Kutna Hora's history, there is also a silver museum, the Czech Museum of Silver. It is housed in the Hradek building, also referred to as the Little Castle, where a guided tour will actually take you to a silver mine.
Kutna Hora is within easy reach of Prague. It has been listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site. Unfortunately, it is no longer as wealthy as it once was and many of the buildings are run down but the town retains its medieval feel and the visitor will be impressed by the variety of the town's architecture.
There are many guided tours of Kutna Hora and the surrounding region which will highlight the most significant buildings and comprehensively cover the history of the area.
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