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Memento Ossis (Remember the Bones)

As many a blog reader will agree, you never know what you find in blogosphere. Just like in any sphere, really. Blogosphere is your web Cosmos, and the last thing I read about our galaxy was that, unfortunately, Uranus was no diamond quarry. Neither is Neptune.

Thankfully, in our Blogalaxy there are some sparkling stones, and on this occasion I’m speaking of a post in Jezblog. Jez, as he says about himself on Flickr, is a “good freelance translator” and a “bad photographer”. I can’t doubt the former, but I do think he’s slightly too modest about his camera skills. At least, when he visited the Sedlec Ossuary in Czech Republic, he’d taken some stunning photos.

Ossuaries date back to the time before our era, but the examples of this somewhat morbid art that we see today across Europe have come into existence since the Middle Ages. Sedlec Ossuary that Jez has documented for his blog and Flickr photoset was created in 1870 by František Rint at the request of the Schwarzenberg family. One of the compositions that Rint had made was the family’s coat-of-arms. Below, on the left, is Jez’s photo of it; and right next to it is the original coat-of-arms. Rint’s interpretation lacks neither wit, nor creativity. Other examples of his artistic vision come from Jez (left) and the ossuary’s official site, http://www.kostnice.cz/.

Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora is not the only European site of this kind. The most famous is, perhaps, the Portuguese Capela dos Ossos in Evora. Built in the 16th c. by a Franciscan monk, the chapel has the following inscription above its entrance: “We bones that are here, for you bones we wait” (“Nós ossos que aqui estamos pelos vossos esperamos”).

I notice that the mendicant brothers were particularly apt at spreading the word about life’s being transitory in this peculiar “bony language”. Another ossuary was created by the Capuchin monks in Rome, in the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini. The Order of Friars Minor of Capuchin, a deviation of the Franciscan Order, was established in the 16th c. in Italy. The church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini has also got the website, with a special section highlighting The Crypt.

The most recent ossuary is the Douaumont Ossuary in Verdun, which commemmorates the unthinkable cruelty and catastrophic human losses during the battle of Verdun in the First World War. Inaugurated in 1932, the ossuary (on the right) is the resting place for the staggering number of unidentified French and German soldiers.


Jez’s Kostnice Ossuary set on Flickr

Pictures of Capela dos Ossos at Sacred-Destinations.com

2 thoughts on “Memento Ossis (Remember the Bones)”

  1. Ooooh! Thank you very much indeed.*bashful smile*Well done for researching the thing a damn sight more thoroughly than I did. I was in a bit of a rush, meant to go back to it and forgot.It was an unforgettable place to visit – even the throngs of tourists couldn’t ruin the atmosphere.

  2. Jez, Not at all – to be honest, although I knew what an ossuary was, I never researched into it. Hence I was aware of the Portuguese place, but not of any other. I’m so glad you took all those photos – apparently there’s a drop of Czech blood in me, so when I finally get to go to Czech Rep. I’ll definitely carve some time out to visit the Kostenice. All the best to you and to Miss Despina :-))

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