Restoration experts have been set an unusual task – to dismantle four towering pyramids made up of centuries-old bones from more than 40,000 human bodies, clean them up and then reconstruct them as before.
The restoration project is aimed at preserving the bones at the Sedlec ossuary church in Kutna Hora. The project also aims to restore and strengthen the church building which houses the bones and skulls.
The site also boasts a chandelier, a coat of arms and various other decorations made from every bone in the human body.
“Many people find it weird today and come to see this as some dark spectacle, a house of horrors,” said Radka Krejci, in charge of operations at the local parish. “But we do not want it to be perceived like that, it is a place of reverence, a burial place.”
The bones came from a cemetery adjacent to a monastery founded by the Cistercian order in 1142.
The burial ground was enlarged during a plague epidemic in the 14th century. In 1318, about 30,000 people were buried here and more joined them in the 15th century during religious wars between Roman Catholics and the Hussites.
The present appearance of the bone structures dates from 1870 and is the work of Czech wood-carver Frantisek Rint, who added the various decorations to the original pyramids.
“The bones will be cleansed of surface dirt and then soaked in lime solution. This is a natural method of preservation which was also used during the creation of these pyramids,” said conservation expert Tomas Kral.