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Fund for reconstruction of Czech church down to bare bones as ossuary struggles in face of COVID

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By Jiri Skacel in the Czech Republic
The Sedlec Ossuary at the church of All Saints in the Czech Republic
The Sedlec Ossuary at the church of All Saints in the Czech Republic   -   Copyright  AP Photo

The Sedlec Ossuary at the church of All Saints in the Czech Republic is one of the most unique in the world.

Its rich decoration contains the remains of about 60,000 people. Most of them died from the Black Death in the 14th century.

Legend has it that after a half-blind monk stacked the bones into four huge pyramids, his sense of sight returned.

Then, in 1870, Frantisek Rint finished the overall decoration of the church into the shape we know today.

The ossuary was never intended to frighten people but rather to remind them of mortality and the transience of human life. The message is simple: “Keep death in mind!” and for visitors it is food for thought on the meaning of life.

Six years ago, the complete renovation of the church began after it fell into disrepair and the remaining bones, which were mainly stored inside the pyramids, started to disintegrate.

“Now we have to build up the wooden construction of the pyramid and then we have to set up the floors from the remaining bones,” explains builder Petr Cicvarek.

Before the pandemic, the ossuary was a very popular attraction, with half-a-million visitors every year. And with its Black Death provenance, it is perhaps somewhat ironic that a pandemic is the reason that the ossuary is being negatively affected.

Coronavirus has stopped the flow of thousands of tourists in a single stroke, as well as all the finances for the reconstruction.

Radka Krejci is the spokeswoman for the Sedlec Ossuary:

“The money disappears very fast so even if we didn’t want to use any financial help or grants, we have to ask for them and we are seeking the possibilities also in the European Union.”

The main task for the parish now is to find enough money to rebuild and maintain the legacy of this rare cultural site.