The Lost Fort

My Travel and History Blog, Focussing mostly on Roman and Mediaeval Times

19 May 2019
  Decorative Bones - The Sedlec Ossuary (Czechia)

Sedlec is today a suburb of the Czech town Kutná Hora, about an hour's drive from Prague. The place has become popular with tourists due to a somewhat morbid and scary attraction: the Ossuary of Sedlec. The town of Kutná Hora (Kuttenberg) is a UNESCO site and worth a visit as well. But in this post, let's get down to the bones. :-)

Bone decorations in the Sedlec Ossuary

Literally, in fact. The ossuary is located in the basement of the All Saints' Chapel in the cemetary of Sedlec. So, how did some 40,000 skeletons end up in this place, and part of those as decorations to boot?

View from the entrance down to the chapel

Well, for one, Sedlec was once more than a part Gothic, part Baroque chapel. From the 13th century to the Hussite Wars in the 15th century, Sedlec had been an important Cistercian monastery. A semi-legendary tale has it that King Ottokar II. Přemysl of Bohemia sent the abbot Jindřich (Henry) to Palestine on some mission in 1278. Upon return, Jindřich brought with hims a jar full of soil from the Calvary Mountain at Golgatha, the place where Jesus died. He spread the earth over the cemetary of the monastery.

Candelabra with pillars

The tale of the Holy Soil spread, and soon people not only from the surroundings, but from other countries as well, wanted to be buried in Sedlec, the closest they could get to Jerusalem without a long pilgrimage. Some 30,000 people were buried in Sedlec during the plague epidemic in 1318, often in mass graves. The cemetary was expanded to 3,5 hectares.

Closeup of the candelabra

The monastery was destroyed by the Hussites in 1421. The Hussite Wars (1419-1434) were are series of wars fought between the Hussites (a reformatory movement prior to Luther) and the Catholic Church. Most of the Czech population were Hussites; they faced contingents sent by the pope, the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund and other European monarchs. Nevertheless, they were sufficiently successful on the field to finally be able to negotiate a peace that would allow them to practise their religion.

Entrance hall

A two storeyed chapel was erected on the grounds of the cemetary in the early 15th century. The churchyard was decreased, the remains of the buried exhumed and deposited in the basement of the chapel. According to tradition, a half blind Cistercian monk later piled the bones into six pyramids (1511).

The entrance and the upper floor of the chapel were altered in the Bohemian Baroque style (a mix of Gothic and Baroque elements) by Jan Santini Aichl in 1710. He also put some touches to the ossuary in the basement, adding carved crowns above the bone pyramids and some candelabras.

View to the ceiling

The Schwarzenberg family, members of the Bohemian and German high nobility, bought the chapel and comissioned the wood carver František Rint to do a house makeover in 1870. But instead of wood, he would use some of the bones to create decorative elements.

He dissembled two of the six pyramids (the bones of about 10,000 people). The bones were bleached with chlorinated lime prior to use; the rest buried in the park outside the chapel.

Arms of the Schwarzenberg family

One feature Rint created were the arms of the Schwarzenberg family. In the lower right quarter you can see a raven hacking at the eye of a skull. That motive was granted the family due to their service fighting the Turkish Ottomans in the 16th century.

Detail shot of the ceiling

The most outstanding part of the decoration is the grand candelabra with the four pillars you can see on several photos above. Rint used every bone of the human body in the construction. Garlands of skulls and long bones (mostly upper arms) also adorn the ceiling and the archs.

One of the two chalices

On both sides of the staircase leading down to the ossuary, Rint placed bone chalices in niches in the wall. They were probably never used, though.

Stack of bones

Four of the bone pyramids still remain in side rooms of the chapel. Some of the bones in those collections, esp. the skulls, show signs of violence, mostly suffered during the Hussite Wars.


Excavations are going on outside the ossuary; and the bone pyramids are carefully dismantled for research, the reassembled again. After all, bones can tell quite a few things about the living conditions of the people in the Middle Ages.

The All Saints' Church, exterior


Information obtained from the guidebook by Jan Kulich (translated into English by Madeleine Štulíková) which is avaliable on site.


4 May 2019
  From Political Movement to Bronze Figures - The Wrocław Dwarfs

Well, some of the Wrocław Dwarfs - impossible to find all of the 163 official dwarfs (krasnale) spread over the town, plus the 150+ additional inofficial ones. The tourist office offers a map to help you hunt down the wee chaps, but I thought that's pretty much like seeking Easter eggs with a GPS; therefore I just kept my eyes open in hope to notice some of the dwarfs. Let me show you the guys I found.

Welcome to Wrocław

Some are cheerful, others cheeky, and a few even look grim. But this wee chap is surely of the welcoming sort.

Happy dwarf with sunflower

But the bronze guys, which are about a foot (20-30 cm) tall, have nothing to do with garden gnomes. They are the reverberation of a legend and, more important, a political movement.

Tourist dwarf with map and camera - right in front of the Tourist Info office

The legend tells that dwarfs assisted the first settlers to build the town of Wrocław. The people were plagued by the Oder river goblin, a nasty, mischievious creature that kept damaging the houses until the dwarfs imprisoned him in a mountain (where he probably still lives). The inhabitants of Wrocław were so grateful that they offered the dwarfs to live in the town together with the humans.

I loved those two bearded guys with the old fashioned fire engine

In the 1980ies, an anti-communist and anti-sovjet movement called 'Orange Alternative' (Pomarańczowa Alternatywa) took up the legend and used the dwarfs as their signature. Led by the student of arts Waldemar Fydrych, called 'Major', and mathematician Wiesław Cupała, they organised peaceful, dadaistic meetings and demonstrations that mocked the communist regime in an ironic way.

A grim looking dwarf - the blacksmith

Wherever the militia covered up anticommunist slogans on walls, paintings of dwarfs would appear soon thereafter, forcing the officials to have scores of perfectly harmless dwarf graffiti removed. Another action were demonstations where the participants wore orange coloured dwarf hoods and made the police look ridiculous if they tried to arrest people for participating in an 'illegal meeting of dwarfs'.

That naked dwarf with umbrella takes up the motive of irony

One action had members of the movement distribute single sheets of toilet paper - which was a rarity at the time - to people, forcing the police to search bags and pockets to confiscate single sheets of toilet paper. Another time they met in front of the chimpanzee compound in the zoo, singing songs that praised Lenin. Well, it looks a bit silly if you arrest people singing pro-Communist songs just because they wear orange hoods.

This one is called Sisyphos - good luck moving that ball if the other guy is leaning against it

The Orange Alternative was loosely connected with the Solidarity movement. Their actions were not without danger, of course, and arrests did happen, but overall the ironic approach proved a strong weapon. The movement culminated in a demonstration of 10,000 people in dwarf hoods marching through the city, singing "Freedom for the dwarfs".


A few years after the fall of communism, the first dwarf, known as Papa Krasnal, was unveiled on the spot where most of the Orange Alternative protest meetings started, the corner of the Ulica Świdnicka and the Ulica Kazimierza Wielkego (Street of Casimir the Great), in 2001 to honour the movement and its victims. I missed that chap, though.

Dwarf on a motor bike

The council commissioned the local artist Tomasz Moczek to create some more dwarfs in 2005, and things went mad from there. The little guys proved so popular with the inhabitants and tourists alike that Moczek created more of them (about a hundred overall). Soon not only the town council ordered bronze dwarfs, but also local businesses commissioned them and brought other artists into the fray.

Handicapped dwarfs: deaf-mute, blind, and paraplegic

Some figures have a more serious background. The three handicapped dwarfs which were added in 2008 are part of the Wrocław Without Barriers campaign which aims to enhance the awareness for the requirements of handicapped people.

Dwarf eating chocolate in front of a chocolate shop

Not all the dwarfs are officially acknowledged. To get an 'approved' dwarf, businesses have to go through a long and expensive process. So they tend to shirk that and commission a dwarf anyway.

Dwarf with gift parcel in front of a gift and knick knack shop

The reason for the rise in illegal dwarfs is the fact that a dwarf in front of a shop increases the attraction to customers. But the wee chaps are so well liked by tourists that it pays off for the town as well, which is likely one reason the authorities tolerate them. Another reason, so my guess, is the political background.


This is the story behind the bronze figures. Below are some more dwarfs which I found.

Dwarf with laptop

The modern variant of a scholar. Or maybe a travel blogger updating his Instragram account with the latest dwarf photos.


That guy was digesting his latest meal in front of a Pizza Hut. (You can't escape those dang chains even in central and eastern Europe. I prefer to look out for local restaurants.)

Drunk dwarf

That one is surely having fun. I wonder what's in that jug, judging by his swaying around it might have been vodka.

Sleeping dwarf

Let's hope our drunk friend found his bed as well. This figure stands in front of a hotel (of course *grin*).

Pastry thieves

And last there are those two suspicious chaps stealing pastries from a bakery - after the one on the windowsill already filched an ice cream cone which he doesn't want to share with his accomplice below.

Pastry thieves

I hope you have as much fun looking at those wee dwarfs as I had hunting down and photographing the chaps.

The Lost Fort is a travel and history blog based on my journeys in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, the Baltic Countries, and central Europe. It includes virtual town and castle tours with a focus on history, museum visits, hiking tours, and essays on Roman and Mediaeval history, illustrated with my own photos.

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Location: Goettingen, Germany

I'm a blogger from Germany with a MA in Literature and History which doesn't pay my bills, so I use it to research blogposts instead. I'm interested in everything Roman and Mediaeval, avid reader and sometimes writer, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, photographer, and tea aficionado. And an old-fashioned blogger who still hasn't got an Instagram account.
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Lion Benches in the Castle Square
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Palatine Seat Tilleda
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Roman and Medieaval Chester

The Abbey - Introduction
The Old Gaol

Clifford Tower
The Guild Hall
Monk Bar Gate with Richard III Museum
Museum Gardens
Houses in the Old Town
York Minster: Architecture



Conquest to King John
Henry III to the Tudors

Romans to the Tudors
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Roman Remains

Eboracum / York
Roman Bath in the Fortress

Wall Fort Birdoswald
The Dark Age Timber Halls

Wall Fort Segedunum
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The Baths

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The Mithraeum at Brocolita
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Views from the Castle

The Wallace Monument


A Virtual Tour
History: The Early Stewart Kings
History: Royal Dower House

An Ancient MacDougall Stronghold
The Wars of Independence
The Campbells Are Coming
Dunstaffnage Chapel

Robert the Bruce

Castles at the Scottish West Coast
Duart Castle
Dunollie and Kilchurn

Abbeys and Churches

Inchcolm Abbey
Arriving at Inchcolm

Neolithicum and Bronze Age

Neolithic Orkney
Ring of Brodgar
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Brochs and Cairns
Clava Cairns
The Brochs of Gurness and Midhowe - Introduction

Picts and Dalriatans
Dunadd Hill Fort



Castle and Coast

The Ffwrwm
The Roman Amphitheatre
The Baths in the Legionary Fort

The Smallest House in Great Britain



Master James of St.George
The Castle Kitchens

From Romans to Victorians

Beginnings unto Bigod
Edward II to the Tudors
Civil War


Llywelyn's Buildings
King Edward's Buildings

The Pleasantest Spot in Wales

Photo Impressions
The Caves Under the Castle

Roman Remains

Isca Silurum / Caerleon
The Amphitheatre
The Baths in the Legionary Fort


Museums and Reconstructed Sites

Viking Museum Roskilde
To come


Castles and Fortresses

Akershus Fortress in Oslo
Kings and Pirates
The Time of King Håkon V

Vardøhus Fortress

Museums / Reconstructed Sites

The Fram Museum in Oslo


Neolithicum and Bronze Age

Gnisvärd Ship Setting

Museums and Reconstructed Sites

The Vasa Museum in Stockholm



Mediaeval Porvoo



The History of Mediaeval Tallinn



The History of Mediaeval Riga



To come



Gdańsk / Danzig
History of Mediaeval Gdańsk
Mediaeval and Renaissance Gdańsk

The Old Town
Jewish Kraków - Kazimierz and the Ghetto

Wrocław / Breslau
The Botanical Garden
The Wrocław Dwarfs


Ogrodzieniec Castle
A Virtual Tour
First Castle to the Boner Family



Cheb / Eger
The Old Town

Karlovy Vary / Karlsbad
Brief History of the Town

Kutná Hora
The Sedlec Ossuary
The Medieaval Town and St.Barbara's Church



The Old Town

Mediaeval Bruges

Mediaeval Ghent

Mediaeval Buildings

Roman Remains

Atuatuca Tungrorum / Tongeren
Roman Remains in the Town



Luxembourg City
A Tour of the Town

City Trips

St.Petersburg (Russia)
Impressions from the Neva River

Strasbourg (France)
A Tour of the Town

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The Baltic Sea Coast
Flensburg Firth
Rugia: Jasmund Peninsula and Kap Arkona
Rugia: Photo Impressions / The Pier of Sellin
A Tour on the Wakenitz River

The Lüneburg Heath
Hiking Tours in the Lüneburg Heath

Harz National Park
Arboretum (Bad Grund)
Bode Valley and Rosstrappe Cliff
Devil's Wall
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Nature Park Meissner-Kaufunger Wald
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Nature Park Solling-Vogler
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Rivers and Lakes
The Danube in Spring
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Harz Falcon Park
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Red squirrels

Spring Impressions from Göttingen
Spring in the Hardenberg Castle Gardens
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Summer Hiking Tours 2016
Autumn in the Meissner
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Winter at the 'Kiessee' Lake

United Kingdom

The East Coast
By Ferry to Newcastle
Highland Mountains: Inverness to John o'Groats
Some Photos from the East Coast

Scottish Sea Shores
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Pentland Firth
Summer in Oban

Scotland by Train
West Highland Railway

Wild Wales - With Castles
Views of Snowdownia

Sea Gulls


The Hurtigruten-Tour / Norway
A Voyage into Winter
Along the Coast of Norway - Light and Darkness
Along the Coast of Norway - North of the Polar Circle

Norway by Train
From Oslo to Bergen
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Bearded Seals
Dog Sledding With Huskies
Eagles and Gulls in the Trollfjord

The Baltic Sea

A Baltic Sea Cruise

The Curonian Spit in Lithuania
Beaches at the Curonian Spit
Geology of the Curonian Spit

Mediaeval History

General Essays
by Country
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Post-Mediaeval History
History and Literature

Mediaeval History

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Mediaeval Art and Craft

Mediaeval Art
The Choir Screen in the Cathedral of Mainz
The Gospels of Heinrich the Lion
The Hunting Frieze in Königslutter Cathedral
Mediaeval Monster Carvings
The Viking Treasure of Hiddensee

Medieaval Craftmanship
Medical Instruments

Mediaeval Warfare

Mediaeval Weapons

Castles and Fortifications
Dungeons and Oubliettes


The History of Feudalism
The Beginnings
Feudalism in the 10th Century

Privileges and Special Relationships
The Privilege of the deditio
A Note on handgenginn maðr

The Hanseatic League

The History of the Hanseatic League
Introduction and Beginnings

Hanseatic Architecture
Examples of Brick Architecture
Hall Houses (Dielenhäuser)

Goods and Trade
Stockfish Trade

Towns of the Hanseatic League
Tallinn / Reval

The Order of the Teutonic Knights

Wars and Battles
The Conquest of Danzig
The Siege of Vilnius 1390

The Vikings

Viking Ships
The Nydam Ship

Essays by Country



List of Mediaeval German Emperors
Anglo-German Marriage Connections

Kings and Emperors

The Salian Dynasty
King Heinrich IV

The Staufen Dynasty
A Welfen Intermezzo: Emperor Otto IV

Princes and Lords

House Welfen
Heinrich the Lion's Ancestors
The Dukes of Braunschweig-Grubenhagen
Otto the Quarrelsome of Braunschweig-Göttingen

The Landgraves of Thuringia
The Ludowing Landgraves of Thuringia
Albrecht II and Friedrich I of Thuringia

Dukes and Princes of other Families
Duke Otto of Northeim
Prince Wilhelm Malte of Putbus

Counts and Local Lords
The Marshals of Ebersburg
The Counts of Everstein
The Counts of Hohnstein
The Lords of Plesse
The Counts of Reichenbach
The Counts of Winzenburg

Feuds and Rebellions

Royal Troubles
Otto IV and Bishop Adalbert II of Magdeburg

Local Feuds
The Lüneburg Succession War
The Thuringian Succession War
The Star Wars


Kings of England

House Plantagenet
Richard Lionheart in Speyer
King Henry IV's Lithuanian Crusade

Normans, Britons, Angevins

Great Noble Houses
The Dukes of Brittany
The Earls of Richmond

Contested Borders

King Stephen's Troubles with King David of Scots


Kings of Scots

House Dunkeld
Malcolm III and Northumbria
Struggle for the Throne: Malcolm III to David I
King David and the Civil War, Part 1
King David and the Civil War, Part 2

Houses Bruce and Stewart
The Early Stewart Kings

Local Troubles

Clan Feuds
MacLeans and MacDonalds
A Scottish Wedding

Scotland and England

The Wars of Independence
Alexander of Argyll
The Fight for Stirling Castle


Welsh Princes

The Princes of Gwynedd
The Rise of House Aberffraw

Wales and England

A History of Rebellion
Llywellyn ap Gruffudd to Owain Glyn Dŵr


Kings of Denmark

House of Knýtlinga
Harald Bluetooth's Flight to Pomerania

Danish Rule in the Baltic Sea

The Duchy of Estonia
Danish Kings and German Sword Brothers


Kings of Norway

Foreign Relations
King Eirik's Scottish Marriages
King Håkon V's Swedish Politics
Beginnings of the Kalmar Union

Feuds and Rebellions

Alv Erlingsson of Tønsberg


Troubles and Alliances

Scandinavian Unity
Beginnings of the Kalmar Union

(Latvia and Estonia)

Contested Territories

Livonian Towns
The History of Mediaeval Riga
The History of Mediaeval Tallinn


Lithuanian Princes

The Geminid Dynasty
Troublesome Cousins - Jogaila and Vytautas

The Northern Crusades

The Wars in Lithuania
The Siege of Vilnius 1390


Royal Dynasties

The Jagiełłonian Kings
Władysław Jagiełło and the Polish-Lithuanian Union

The Northern Crusades

The Conquest of Pomerania / Prussia
The Conquest of Danzig


Royal Dynasties

The Bohemian Kings of House Luxembourg
King Sigismund and the Hussite Wars

Roman History

The Romans at War

Forts and Fortifications

The German Limes
The Cavalry Fort Aalen
Limes Fort Osterburken
Limes Fort Saalburg

The Hadrian's Wall
The Fort at Segedunum / Wallsend

Border Life
Exercise Halls
Mile Castles and Watch Towers
Soldiers' Living Quarters
Cavalry Barracks

Campaigns and Battles

The Romans in Germania

The Pre-Varus Invasion in Germania
Roman Camp Hedemünden
New Finds in 2008

The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest
Museum Park at Kalkriese

The Battle at the Harzhorn

The Batavian Rebellion
A Short Introduction

Miscellaneous Events

The Legend of Alaric's Burial

Roman Militaria

Early Imperial Helmets
Late Roman Helmets
The Negau B Helmet

Weapon Finds at Hedemünden
The pilum

Other Equipment
Roman Saddles

Roman Life and Religion

Religion and Public Life

Curse Tablets and Good Luck Charms
Isis Worship
Memorial Stones
The Mithras Cult

Public Life
Roman Transport: Barges
Roman Transport: Amphorae and Barrels
Roman Water Supply

Roman Public Baths

Domestic Life

Roman villae
Villa Urbana Longuich
Villa Rustica Wachenheim

Everyday Life
Bathing Habits
Children's Toys
Face Pots

Other Times


Geological Landscapes - Germany

Baltic Sea Coast
Chalk Cliffs on Rugia
Flint Fields on Rugia

Harz Mountains
Bode Valley and Rosstrappe Cliff
The 'Hübichenstein' Rock
Karst Formations in the Southern Harz
The Lonau Falls
The Rhume Springs
Sandstone Formations: Daneil's Cave
Sandstone Formations: Devil's Wall
Sandstone Formations: The Klus Rock

Meissner / Kaufunger Wald
Blue Dome near Eschwege
Diabase and Basalt Formations
Karst Formations
Salt Springs at the Werra

Raised Bog Mecklenbruch
Hannover Cliffs

Geological Landscapes - Great Britain

The Shores of Scotland

Geological Landscapes - The Baltic Sea

Geology of the Curonian Spit

Fossils and Other Odd Rocks

Fossilized Ammonites
The Loket Meteorite

Neolithicum to Iron Age


Development of Civilisation
European Bread Museum, Ebergötzen
The Hutewald Project in the Solling
Open Air Museum Oerlinghausen

Neolithic Remains
Stone Burials of the Funnelbeaker Culture
The Necropolis of Oldendorf

Bronze Age / Iron Age
The Nydam Ship


Neolithic Orkney
The Neolithic Landscape of Orkney
Ring of Brodgar
Skara Brae
Life in Skara Brae

Bronze Age / Iron Age
Clava Cairns
The Brochs of Gurness and Midhowe - Their Function in Iron Age Society


Bronze / Iron Age
The Ship Setting of Gnisvärd / Gotland

Post-Mediaeval History

Explorers and Discoveries

Fram Expedition to the North Pole
Fram Expedition to the South Pole

Otto von Guericke and the Magdeburg Hemispheres
Raising a Wreck, Now and Then (Vasa Museum in Stockholm)

History and Literature


The Weimar Classicism

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