Exploring Stamford’s “stunning” Czech twin town

Brendan McFadden at the Palackeho Square in Kutna Hora
Brendan McFadden at the Palackeho Square in Kutna Hora
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It may not be a well known fact but Stamford is twinned with the beautiful town of Kutna Hora in the Czech Republic; reporter Brendan McFadden day tripped there recently during a visit to Prague and found out all about it.

Kutna Hora is nestled in beautiful countryside much like its English counterpart and I took a minute to take in my surroundings after I stepped-off the train.

Saint Barbaras Church. By Brendan McFadden

Saint Barbaras Church. By Brendan McFadden

I grabbed a map from the tourist office and after walking for only 10 minutes on what was a gloriously sunny day in August it soon became clear why the town has been accredited as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

To my left was the Church of the Assumption of Our Lady and Saint John the Baptist, a former Cistercian monastery set up by king Wenceslas II in the early 1300s, I was stunned by the beautiful Gothic architecture and soon found myself drawn inside.

Things just got better as I wandered inside the vast structure and admired the stone sculptures and paintings.

Next I headed to the Sedlec Ossuary, which was only a brief five-minute walk from the cathedral. The Ossuary was a place I had heard much about before my trip to the Czech Republic and is something I desperately wanted to see.

A street in Kutna Hora's historic town. By Brendan McFadden

A street in Kutna Hora's historic town. By Brendan McFadden

As you walk down the steps into the building you could be forgiven for thinking that you had just entered the set of a Hammer horror film as the first thing you see are HUMAN BONES...

The chapel contains the bones of more than 40,000 people, which are decorated artistically in pyramids, a chandelier and a coat of arms. The macabre arrangement is the work of, František Rint, a woodcarver employed by the Schwarzenberg family in 1870 to put the bones in order after they were removed.

The bones were stored in the chapel after the abbot of the Sedlec Cistercian Monastery went to Jerusalem in the 12TH Century and brought back a jar of soil known as the ‘Holy Soil’. As a result many people wanted to be buried at the Sedlec cemetery, which surrounds the Ossarry, so it had to be expanded.

It was fair to say that initially my own bones chilled and I was very creeped out but after being told by the narrator on my audio guide that it is believed that the arrangement of bones has it roots in the Latin saying ‘memento mori’ which translated means ‘remember you have to die,’ I could appreciate that there was a much deeper meaning to what I was seeing. Christians take this saying as a reflection on the vanity of life. For me it was a reminder that life should be enjoyed to the full as we all end up as bones, although I hope mine don’t end up decorating a chapel!

Following my visit to the chapel I took a stroll to the historic town centre. This took me twenty-five-minutes but there are regular buses and a train from the area to the historic town for those who want to be gentle to their legs.

The historic centre is littered with churches and the finest architectural works from Gothic and Baroque periods.

Buildings here are a wonderful sight to see and are born out the wealth the town achieved through silver mining between the 13th and 16th Century. The streets are quiet and the people are smiley - I felt totally at home here.

When I was done ambling the streets I took a break and sat in one of the many quaint cafes in Palackeho Square, the town’s main square, where I was able to enjoy taking in the buzz and listen to a busker play ambient tunes on a piano, over a glass of refreshing lemonade and chocolate cake.

Inside the Sedlec Ossuary By Brendan McFadden

Inside the Sedlec Ossuary By Brendan McFadden

Before I left Kutna Hora I had the chance to see one last building before I had to catch my train - Saint Barbara’s Church - and I saved the best until last.

The church, which is designed in the style of a cathedral, has three - tented roofs and a mesmerising buttress.

I had seen lots of lovely buildings throughout the day but Saint Barbara’s Church was without a doubt the most stunning and unmistakable landmark. The inside, as I imagined it would be, was as stunning as the exterior - full of intricate architecture and adored with beautiful sculptures of religious symbols such as angels and frescoes depicting medieval life in Kutna Hora.

I thoroughly enjoyed my day in Kutna Hora and I saw so many wonderful things in such a short time. In many ways the town is similar to Stamford - both are steeped in history, quaint and rich with beautiful buildings and churches. My only complaint? That one day there wasn’t enough.

A coat of arms in the Sedlec Ossuary. By Brendan McFadden

A coat of arms in the Sedlec Ossuary. By Brendan McFadden