The Sedlec Ossuary is a small Roman Catholic chapel and one of twelve World Heritage Sites in the Czech Republic. The ossuary is estimated to contain the skeletons of between 40,000 and 70,000 people, whose bones have, in many cases, been artistically arranged to form decorations and furnishings for the chapel. The ossuary is among the most visited tourist attractions of the Czech Republic.
Four enormous bell-shaped mounds occupy the corners of the chapel. An enormous chandelier of bones, which contains at least one of every bone in the human body, hangs from the center of the nave with garlands of skulls draping the vault. Other works include piers and monstrances flanking the altar, a coat of arms of House of Schwarzenberg, and the signature of Rint, also executed in bone, on the wall near the entrance.
A cistercian monastery was founded near the current Sedlec Ossuary in 1142. One of the principal tasks of the monks was the cultivation of the grounds and lands around the monastery. In 1278 King Otakar II of Bohemia sent Henry, the abbot of Sedlec , on a diplomatic mission to the Holy Land. When leaving Jerusalem Henry took with him a handful of earth from Golgotha which he sprinkled over the cemetery of Sedlec monastery, consequently the cemetery became famous, not only in Bohemia but also throughout Central Europe and many wealthy people desired to be buried here.The burial ground was enlarged during the epidemics of plague in the 14 th century (e.g.in 1318 about 30 000 people were buried here) and also during the Hussite wars in first quarter of the 15 th. century.
After 1400 one of the abbots had a church of All Saints erected in Gothic style in the middle of the cemetery and under it a chapel destined for the deposition of bones from abolished graves, a task which was begun by a half blind Cistercian monk after the year 1511. The charnel-house was remodelled in Czech Baroque style between 1703-1710. The present arrangement of the bones dates from 1870 and is the work of a Czech wood-carver, František Rint.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.