ATLAS OBSCURA

Curious Fact of the Week: How to Make a Bone Chandelier

The unsettling celebrated Sedlec Ossuary in the Czech Republic is best known as the “Bone Church” — and with good reason. It’s estimated the bleached bones of between 40,000 and 70,000 dearly departed souls grace the walls. However, in all the skull garlands and charming touches like a bone bird plucking at a gaping eye socket, the centerpiece is without a doubt the chandelier.

It can be hard to make out in the ornate jumble, but there’s at least one of every bone in the human body in the chandelier. It’s arguably the masterpiece of the macabrely eccentric Frantisek Rint, a woodcarver who approached the ordering of the thousands of bones in 1870 as an artistic task. Perhaps surprisingly to everyone but Rint, the ossuary has become quite the tourist destination. 

Why are there so many dead people in this one small space? Story goes that back in the 13th century, the Sedlec Monastery Abbot brought back some earth from the Holy Land. Unfortunately, he didn’t carry much, so the spare land where he sprinkled the dirt became quite crowded with people who wanted to rest eternally in its gritty grace. So the ossuary was the result, where everyone in a way could be close.

As for the chandelier, once you know that a whole anatomy is up there details like femurs and jawbones start to emerge. The crowning touch is the ring of skulls topped with candles, which are illuminated each year on All Soul’s Day. 

(Curious Fact of the Week: How to Make a Bone Chandelier on Atlas Obscura)