Inside Prague’s church of bones
A unique tourist spot on the outskirts of the heritage city is the setting for an Indian thriller.travel Updated: Sep 08, 2012 18:03 IST
Director Ashish R Shukla, who shot his debut film, Prague, in the heritage city over a period of 23 day, says, “We were in the Bone Church for about four hours. It was eerie, with a kind of weird energy. Looking at all the human bones and skulls around us, I could see the macabre history of Prague flash in front of my eyes.”
For the shoot, the unit was in the Ossuary or Kostnice, a tourist spot in Kutná Hora.The medieval town, about 45 miles east of Prague, is where St Barbara’s Cathedral is located. The cathedral, which has been on the UNESCO heritage site list for over 10 years, is unique: the crosses, columns and chalices are all made up of human bones! There are skulls hanging from the ceiling, a skull candelabra and a display case showing skulls which bear wound marks inflicted by medieval weapons. There’s a coat of arms, with a segment depicting a raven picking the eye of an invading soldier, and a chandelier hanging from the centre, made using every single bone in the human body. The 40,000 bones came from victims of the 14th-century plague and the 15th-century Hussite Wars.
Shukla’s psychological thriller revolves around a delusional architect, a Czech gypsy searching for her identity and love, an untrustworthy friend and a character who could be imaginary. “The architect has gone to study the history of Prague, so we thought of shooting in the Bone Church that reflects the turmoil in his mind. It had never been let out for shoots but we had friends in the local administration who helped us get permission.”
In the 13th century, Jindrich, the abbot of Sedlec monastery, returned from a pilgrimage to Palestine with a handful of soil. He sprinkled it on the cemetery surrounding the Chapel of All Saints and the burial ground became a sought-after site among the aristocracy of Central Europe.At the time of the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century, the number of corpses soon outgrew the graves available. So older remains were dug out, exhumed and stored in the chapel. The decorations and sculptures were created by a woodcarver named František Rint in 1870 for the Schwarzenberg family to serve as a reminder that life is transient and death unavoidable.