Saturday, September 21, 2013


On the agenda for today: a day trip to Kutna Hora, a small town about 45 miles east of Prague.  We got an early start, taking the subway to the main train station in Prague where we bought our round trip tickets to Kutna Hora--a bargain at less than $17 each.

It was a quick 1 hour ride to the small main station in Kutna Hora.  We found an information office, and the helpful lady gave us a map, directions to the local sights, and helped us with bus connections around the area.  Even though this station is called the main station, it is really quite a ways out of the town of Kutna Hora.

David at the small Kutna Hora station:

Our first destination was an easy 15 minute walk from the station.  We walked along a narrow tree lined road to the outskirts of Kutna Hora to an area called Sedlec.

Our first stop, Cathedral of Assumption of Our Lady and St. John The Baptist, which was founded by Cistercian Order and originally built in 1320.  It was rebuilt in 1702, and is said to be one of the first cathedral-like structures  built on Bohemian soil.  It's a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The interior is a pretty butter yellow and white, with beautiful high vaults.

The interior is quite simple, with very minimum decoration.  It has a nice serenity, and we both enjoyed the church, especially the detailed descriptions of the meticulous restorations.

Painted scene above the altar:

There are two elaborate glass cases with the relics of St. Felix and St. Vincent that were very interesting.  These relics (bones) were a gift to the church from Pope Benedict XIV in 1742.

Relic of St. Vincent:

The one very ornate chapel in the church was the Chapel of the Virgin Mary of Sedlec.  It was built by a monk in 1712, and "Baroquized"(yes, that's word used in the descriptive plaque) by a wealthy silver mining family in the 1800's.

As we were wandering around the church, we noticed a set of spiral stairs--so of course we had to climb up!

Looking down the pretty staircase:

The steps led to the attic of the church, where we walked on a newly constructed wood walkway the length of the church.

We could see the brick construction of the domes along the aisles on either side of the nave:

The walkway led to the choir above the main entrance to the church--and we had a lovely view down the nave:

After we left the church it was a short 10 minute walk to our next site, Kostnice, or The Ossuary of Sedlec.  The following description from Wikipedia explains it better than I can:

In 1278, Henry, the abbot of the Cistercian monastery in Sedlec, was sent to the Holy Land by KingOtakar II of Bohemia. He returned with him a small amount of earth he had removed from Golgotha and sprinkled it over the abbey cemetery. The word of this pious act soon spread and the cemetery in Sedlec became a desirable burial site throughoutCentral Europe.
In the mid 14th century, during the Black Death, and after the Hussite Wars in the early 15th century, many thousands were buried in the abbey cemetery, so it had to be greatly enlarged.
Around 1400, a Gothic church was built in the center of the cemetery with a vaulted upper level and a lower chapel to be used as an ossuary for the mass graves unearthed during construction, or simply slated for demolition to make room for new burials.
After 1511, the task of exhuming skeletons and stacking their bones in the chapel was given to a half-blind monk of the order.
Between 1703 and 1710, a new entrance was constructed to support the front wall, which was leaning outward, and the upper chapel was rebuilt. This work, in the Czech Baroque style, was designed by Jan Santini Aichel.
In 1870, František Rint, a woodcarver, was employed by the Schwarzenberg family to put the bone heaps into order, yielding a macabre result.

Kostnice and the small cemetery surrounding the church:

Here are a few pictures of the elaborate decoration:

I really like urn shapes, but this one sure is different!

This was my favorite design:

The chandelier was pretty amazing:

The "artist" signed his work in finger bones:

We spent just a few minutes at the ossuary, and then walked back out to the main road in Sedlec, where we waited for a bus to take us into Kutna Hora.  We waited, and waited.............  I don't think they pay much attention to schedules in this small town!  The 12:45 bus didn't arrive, but we did catch the 1:15 bus.  There were a couple of young Chinese tourists waiting with us--and we all cheered when the bus finally showed up!

The helpful bus driver told us when to get off for Kutna Hora Centrum--and then the fun began.  Kutna  Hora is a very old town full of narrow, winding lanes lined with pretty buildings, but it's an absolute maze and a mess to figure out!  We wandered around, up and down and around a several block area looking for a certain restaurant that had been highly recommended.  Soon we gave up--it had started to rain and we were both h-u-n-g-r-y!  We went into a small restaurant on a winding side lane, and shared a mediocre lunch of  a small vegetarian pizza and a pasta dish.  David had a beer that was marginal, and  the one bright spot was my glass of red wine, which was really good and cost a whopping $1.90!  After  consulting our (useless) map, we realized we'd be hopelessly lost in that maze of narrow lanes within 5 minutes!  We asked the nice waitress if she would call a taxi for us--and it was the best decision of the day!.  He picked us up right in front of the restaurant and whisked us to the Church of St. Barbara in 10 minutes flat.  Cost: about $4--worth every penny to NOT get lost and frustrated!

A few street scenes from the historical center of Kutna Hora:

A small town square:

Narrow, winding lanes:

Our first look at The Church of St. Barbara--we knew we were in for a treat! (and I just realized this picture is w little wonky--sorry)

Beautiful spires and flying buttresses--yes, we get kind of excited about such things!

This beautiful church was our main reason for coming to Kutna Hora, and we were really impressed!

A little history:

Earliest evidence of settlement in the area date to the 10th century.  Kutna Hora came to prominence in the 13th century due to the discovery of silver in the area.  During the 13th century Kutna Hora was almost as large as Prague.

St. Barbara is the patron saint of miners--so it was certainly a logical name for the church.  Construction on the church started in 1388, and work continued for many centuries, interrupted by wars and decline in silver mining.   It was finally completed in 1905.  The original design was for a much larger church--almost twice the size of the current church, hard to imagine!
Looking down the nave towards the altar:

The ceiling is painted with several coats of arms:

The stained glass windows are beautiful--there is a series of 12, here's one especially pretty one:

Medieval fresco from the 15th century:

This one has been restored:

We could see traces of original color on the tall columns along the nave:

We were able to climb to an area near the big pipe organ, where we had some interesting views over the church.

From behind the upper part of the pipe organ, looking down the nave:

Front view of the decorative top of the pipe organ:

I loved the view of the flying buttresses through the upper windows:

Across the vault there were several old empty pictures frames on the wall--of course I wanted them ALL!

We spent over an hour in St. Barbara--it was definitely the highlight of our day in Kutna Hora.

We had just a short time left, as our nice taxi drive said he would pick us up at 4 pm for the return trip to the train station.  We walked around the church, admiring the view over Kutna Hora:

And especially the beautiful architecture of the church.

There were many interesting gargoyles:

Here's a view from the side:

David pointed out this spiral stair leading to a bell tower--wish we could have climbed up there:

Our driver was there right on time, and we asked to be dropped off at the train station right in the middle of Kutna Hora instead of the one we came into.  We were about 45 minutes early, so we thought we'd relax and have a coffee or a beer while waiting for our train.  Welllll----this station was even tinier that the first--not even a vending machine!  It was a bit deserted looking, so we walked around a couple of blocks, but still didn't find a restaurant or pub.  We walked back to the station, and found we could get on an earlier train--good luck!

Here's David--just waiting at the station:

Just an hour on the train, and we were back in beautiful Prague.  David thinks he's coming down with a cold--darn it!  We decided a relaxing evening "in" was in order, and I cooked a quick dinner of pasta again.  We opened a bottle of really nice Czech red wine, and it was early to bed for these two travelers!

Another wonderful day in the Czech Republic--we really like this place!

Tomorrow in Prague:  Nothing definite planned--depends on how David is feeling, and what the weather is--but I'm sure we'll see something interesting and beautiful.

1 comment:

  1. Finally able to find the time to view your blog. Loved the churches and especially the stained glass windows. Train stations were interesting. Prague looks wonderful. Gee, I wonder how David is right now. Sure hope he isn't coming down with a cold!