The Bone Church

Team Praha 201311I first visited the Bone Church in Kutná Hora in 2011. I had taken a summer college course on intellectual property and my young professor had studied abroad, so when she heard I was going to miss the final because I would be traversing Europe she said, “Don’t miss out on this place.”

To be honest, I had little intention of going. I spent most of that class on MLIA and (Yes, Mom, that is a real website. No, I didn’t spend all my time on that site…I looked at wedding dresses and comic strips a lot too).

*It should be noted that upon mentioning in this note, I had to revisit the website and accidentally spent 20 minutes looking at bad-pun Valentine memes.

Anyway, the point of this was to say it was a coincidence I went at all. The other option was visiting the Czech concentration camp Terezín again and I was not emotionally up for a second round of that.

I’ve actually been twice now. The town is beautiful and the many cathedrals are mesmerizing. The Bone Church itself is my least favorite part. The church is “decorated” with the bones of roughly 40,000 people. Early stories suggest that blind monks who took care of the church first began piling pones in geometric shapes. In 1870 František Rint was commissioned to design the bone sculptures inside the church to serve as a reminder of the unavoidability of death.

My breath tends to get caught in my throat after several minutes and I begin to feel nauseous and suffocated. As a writer, I don’t ever see skeletons or bones or decorations or symbolism. I see stories. And there are 40,000 stories in that church with empty, polished eye sockets. It’s hard to take in. Eventually, I wander outside to the sunshine and walk around the cemetery until the rest of the party is ready to move on.

It does make me think about death, though perhaps not as the architect saw it.

Philippians 1:21 “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”


Dead in your tracks

It had been a good enough day. The best part was knowing I had the evening off – my first free night in weeks. I caught an early tram home by some miracle and found myself a precious five minutes ahead of schedule.

The glossy tram slid along the rails to the station where I normally switch off and take a bus, then, suddenly, it slowed to a stop on the bridge, lined up behind two other trams. The conductor spoke through the overhead in Czech and the doors opened with the suction sound that always makes me feel like I’m on the Death Star. Everyone got off. I followed.

Through the cold darkness that pierced like glass, we walked along the side of the tram tracks in single file till we reached the bus platform. We were pocketed into a free space, a circumference of emergency responders and siren-lit trucks circled us. On the other side of the circle was a small and growing crowd of bystanders. Firemen were working to lift the tram – I assumed it had gotten stuck.

Based on the number of trams in front of mine, I figure I was about eight to ten minutes behind the accident. Police pulled up followed by two larger trucks. A gurney was wheeled out and still the severity of the accident didn’t dawn on me. Was there a person under there?

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