By Rachel Heller
What is Kutná Hora?
Kutná Hora is a town that made its fortune based on silver mining. The full name of the UNESCO site is “Kutná Hora: Historical Town Centre with the Church of St Barbara and the Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec.” In other words, the site has three parts: the old center of the town of Kutná Hora plus the two churches.
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Kutná Hora has a medieval town center that is well-preserved and retains its original layout, though the facades were updated later to appear more Gothic and/or Baroque.
The Church of St. Barbara is an ornate late-Gothic cathedral that was started in the 14th century but took hundreds of years to complete. The Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec has a much simpler Gothic look on the outside but is brimming with baroque inside.
Why is Kutná Hora a UNESCO World Heritage site?
Kutná Hora has a large collection of buildings of “high architectural and artistic quality,” particularly the Church of St Barbara, which influenced later developments in architecture in Central Europe, according to the UNESCO designation. Also, it is a good example of a medieval town that became prosperous due to silver mining.
What can you expect on a visit to Kutná Hora?
The two churches are baroque masterpieces on the inside – the altars are really over-the-top concoctions! Notice the frescoes painted on the walls in the Church of St. Barbara too. They date from the Middle Ages and, unusually, they feature not only saints and angels, but also local people involved in silver-related activities. Take a stroll around the town too, to admire the elegant facades.
Besides enjoying the lovely town center and some exceptional baroque interiors, you can expect to see an added bonus: another church that is not included in the UNESCO site but draws many more visitors. Popularly called the Bone Church, its real name is Sedlec Ossuary.
The Bone Church
The Bone Church was designed by the same person, Jan Blazej Santini, who designed the Cathedral of Our Lady. It’s not the building that’s so interesting, though; it’s the bones. The bones of thousands of people – somewhere between 30,000 and 60,000 – were dug up from the cemetery when it was closed and piled neatly in this church in the 16th century by a half-blind monk.
Later, in the 19th century, a local took lots of the bones and started making macabre artworks from them. These decorations cover the walls and ceilings of the church.
Is Kutná Hora worth visiting?
Yes, if architecture and particularly the baroque period are of interest to you. Certainly, if you are curious enough to go see the Bone Church, you could stop by the other two churches easily enough on the same day.
What sorts of travelers would like Kutná Hora?
Any history-lover or architecture buff would enjoy these churches and wandering these streets. If you have a more ghoulish bent, the Bone Church will be more your style. There’s not much to entertain kids, though, in any of these sights.
Read more about Kutná Hora here.
Tips for visiting Kutná Hora
The Bone Church is much more popular than the UNESCO sites, so visit the Bone Church first before the crowds arrive. Stay overnight in Kutná Hora to get a good feel for the medieval city, then go to the Bone Church right when they open in the morning.
Click on the map below to book your accommodations in Kutná Hora:
Where is Kutná Hora?
Kutná Hora is an hour and 15 minutes east of Prague either by train or by car, which makes it an easy day trip from Prague, if you don’t want to stay overnight. There are plenty of tours to choose from that go there as well, mostly focusing on the Bone Church.
For more information about Kutná Hora, see the town’s official tourism website.
Text and photos provided by Rachel Heller of Rachel’s Ruminations, a travel blog focusing on historical and cultural sights/sites for independent travelers. Rachel is also the owner of this website.
Have you been to Kutná Hora? If so, do you have any additional information or advice about this UNESCO World Heritage site? Please add your comments below!