Kutna Hora: Historical Town Centre with the Church of Saint Barbara and the Cathedral of our Lady at Sedlec symbolize the wealth this city derived from silver mining.
The earliest traces of silver have been found dating back to the 10th century. The silver boom started in the 13th century.
The town of Kutná Hora has several interesting late medieval buildings, built in Gothic style. They include the Italian Court (location of the Mint) and the Little Castle. The late Gothic Saint Barbara Church dates from the 1380s. Saint Barbara is the patron saint of miners.
The Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec was rebuilt by Jan Blazej Santini in the Gothicizing Baroque style (early 18th century). It lies 1.5km outside of Kutna Hora, and was part of a Cistercian monastery.
Map of Kutna HoraLoad map
Many people visit Kutna Hora as a day trip from Prague, and that is an easy option - there's a direct train to the main Kutna Hora station near the Cathedral of our Lady at Sedlec, from where you can get a local train to the Kutna Hora mesto station in the historic centre (or just walk the 30 minutes). However, I would recommend at least staying overnight. There's more than enough to fill your time, and the city is much more pleasant in the evenings when the tourist crowds have gone (particularly in the summer months).
The two main churches in the World Heritage Site listing are quite different but impressive in their own ways. I preferred the Church of St Barbara with its paintings on the walls and the ceiling. The Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec is brighter and with less decoration, but it radiates a warmth inside and feels larger than it looks from the outside.
In the historic centre, I would recommend visiting Hrádek (Little Castle) that now houses the Silver Museum; the Italian Court, which has several exhibitions about the role the building has played in the city's history; and the Stone House, with a small museum about life in Kutna Hora. There are also lots of medieval houses with interesting facades and, although the centre is not large, it's easy to spend the whole day seeing the sights and visiting the museums and churches.
One of the most popular attractions in the city, the Sedlec Ossuary, is not actually part of the World Heritage Site, but is certainly worth visiting. Thousands of human bones have been arranged into eerie art pieces and it's quite a sight. I arrived just as it was opening and had it to myself (which makes it even creepier).
This is certainly a Czech WHS worth visiting, and the fact it's so easy to reach means there's really no excuse not to.
Read more from Michael Turtle here.
The area around the mining town of Kutná Hora (Kuttenberg in German) has been important "hotspot" from at least 10th Century as documented by nice Romanesque churches in Malín (village very close to the main train station of Kutná Hora), in nearby Jakub (small but very nice church from 12th Century declared as the national monument), or even in a bit further village Záboří nad Labem (richly decorated Romanesque portal, which is a mystery for the scholars - no idea how such excellent architecture appeared in the middle of nowhere...). From gothic period, I would recommend nearby towns Kolín, Kouřim and Čáslav. From younger structures, there is a chateau in Kačina built in Empire-style, or miners village Kaňk, etc. Thus I would recommend to go not only to the very center of Kutná Hora, but explore a bit also the surrounding landscape!
The core zone of the Kutná Hora WHS consists of two parts: the town center, and the church of Assumption of Our Lady in Sedlec, which was a part of the former Cistercian monastery (now the cigarette factory...). Both sites are accessible by local train from the main train station. The very touristy Ossuary is not part of the WHS. If you travel by train, I would recommend not getting off at Kutná Hora, město, but at the next stop: Kutná Hora, předměstí. The reason is very nice views towards the Kutná Hora urban landscape above the river Vrchlice - In my opinion, this is the main strength of the site.
The qualities of Kutná Hora (PHOTO - view towards the church of St. Jacob) have been already described by others. Thus, I would like to focus on the church in Sedlec (PHOTO - the interior), which is often neglected by travelers, which prefer the nearby tourist trap of Ossuary. However, the church bears a rich testimony about history of Bohemia Kingdom. It has been founded as a part of cistercian monastery in 13th Century in French gothic cathedral style. However, the entire monastery complex was destroyed by Hussite army in 15th Century. During the anti-reformation in 17th-18th Century, it has been rebuilt as a symbol of catholic faith. Thus, the idea of continuity with the great works of 13-14th Centuries was emphasized. This is the reason why it is built in unique gothic-baroque style. OK, the church is pretty plane and vast, but I really like its monumental appearance, especially the intricate vault systems (PHOTO/right) and fascinating small details (staircases, etc.). The interior has been reconstructed quite recently as seen on bright yellow shades. However, the original color of 18th Century (re)construction was surprisingly green! Unfortunately, the parts of former monastery richly decorated by Baroque frescoes are not accessible. All in all, the WHS status of the church is probably justified in my opinion, but merging it to the mining town in this WHS is a bit "inharmonious".
The main issue I have is that more and more European mining landscapes have been inscribed to the list, such as Erzgebirge in 2019, or Rosia Montana in 2021. Thus the big question is if it is already over-represented, or if the newly inscribed sites are "better" than those already inscribed (Goslar inscribed in 1992, Banská Štiavnica in 1993, Kutná Hora in 1995, ...) I really do not know. Thus, I cannot decide if Kutná Hora has the OUV or if it is only of national importance. Anyway, Kutná Hora is visited by herds of tourists, and all the masses usually travel by train from Prague, which is a bit annoying for locals including me...
On this trip to the Czech Republic I had planned to see beside the treasure trove of Prague one new WHS and one new TWHS: The Villa Tugendhat in Brno and the Jested Tower near Liberec. None of it worked out. For the Villa Tugendhat even three weeks ahead was too late to find any space in a tour, they are now booked out for months ahead, even in wintertime. While I enjoyed Brno for its lively old town and the beautiful St. James church with its ossuary, I decided not to visit the Villa just from the the outside since the garden is hardly enjoyable in wintertime. After that we didn't do our day trip to Liberec either because the performance of two rare Rachmaninov operas that we had planned to see was cancelled. I decided instead to use that day for a short day trip to Kutna Hora.
There is about one train per hour from Prague main station to Kutna Hora main station, sometimes you have to change trains in Kolin. From Kutna Hora main station you have often a very tiny, cute local train to the nearby stations of Kutna Hora Sedlec (for the Cathedral of our Lady) and Kutna hora mesto (for the old town, the mine, the church of St. Barbara etc.). With a little planning this additional train saves you a lot of walking through modern parts of the town. Better be well prepared because in the small trains the staff may only speak Czech!
Despite the fact that all our trains were late we reached all connecting trains so I had the impression that they waited for the arriving trains. We got off at Sedlec and went to the ticket office were you can by seperate tickets for the Cathedral and the ossuary or, as we did, a combined ticket for both of them and the church of St. Barbara in the town center. The Ossuary which is not in the core Zone but only part of the large buffer zone is the main tourist attraction of this area and there were several signs the encourage you visit not only the ossuary but to see the Cathedral as well since you are there already!
I found the cathedral in itself rather underwhelming. It is as plain from the inside as from the outside, with a bright but a bit sugary color palette between yellow and orange. The most unusual feature is the arched ceiling in the gothic baroque stile which is only found in Czechia and perhaps better enjoyed at the Pilgrimage Church of St John of Nepomuk at Zelená Hora. The Sedlec cathedral seems to be important as the first gothic cathedral in Czechia but is was severely damaged in the Hussite wars and only rebuilt around 1700. This might explain why it didn't seem very authentically gothic to me. The nearby ossuary chapel is certainly an interesting curiosity but a bit blasphemous for my taste. Ossuaries seem to be no rarity in this area and I found the ossuary in Brno more impressive.
After spending in hour in Sedlec we took the short train ride to the town center. Here there are so many things to see here that it is a bit hard what to choose if you are rushed. The one clear single highlight of the whole site is the magnificent church of St. Barbara which is already an unusual sight from the outside with its three-peaked roof without any tower. The inside is very elegant and worth to spent some time in it. It reminded my of the wonderful church of the Hieronymus monastery in Lisbon. The second most impressive attraction for me was the lovely old town itself with crooked lanes but impressive mostly baroque houses. If you are there in the warmer and brighter month I would definitely recommend to spend a night there and enjoy the evening to stroll around and enjoy the atmosphere. I had to do this in a rush which seemed a pity.
There is an astonishing number of museums in town of which we visited first the Italian court. This can only be done with a tour that promises the “jewel in the crown of Czech kings". In fact you see a nice medieval chapel which is completely covered in Art Nouveau painting and a great hall from the late middle ages. The latter has a beautiful original ceiling and large nineteenth century historic painting at the walls. Beside that you get to see only a film about the process of mining and coining and the history of the place. If you know something about these topics it is not worth it and it is narrated with such a strong American (?) accent that we found it hard to follow. The friendly lady who guided us was even harder to understand since she omitted all articles and said funny words like "meet" for "mint", and this twenty times in one tour. The most interesting fact of the tour was that most of there silver came from Jachymov, now part of the Czeck Erzgebirge WHS and that they coined here the famous Joachimstaler, the famous model for the American Dollar. All in all I would recommend to see the Castle just from the outside and the courtyard and skip the tour.
There is a second large museum, the Bohemian silver museum in a castle-like building which seems to be the entrance to the mine. This was closed at the day we were there and it seems the mine is closed for renovation. Furthermore there is the Stone House museum with a very nice late gothic facade, the Dacicky House which is interesting if you want to know more about the renovation of the town and about the other Czech WH sites. The Tyl house is mainly about the Czeck author with the same name and therefore of little interest for most foreign tourists. Very impressive from the outside is the huge Jesuit College, now a museum for contemporary art. There are also at least two more appealing looking churches in town: St. James and The Church of Our Lady Na Náměti, but both have very limited opening hours in the winter season and were closed. Last but not least there is an unusual late gothic public Stone Fountain (near the church of St.Nepomuk) which is quickly seen but it would be a pity to miss it. Just after my trip I found this excellent website about the attractions in Kutna Hora which may be very helpful for checking out opening hours: https://destinace.kutnahora.cz/d/sights-kutna-hora.
Beside the great St. Barbara church the attraction of Kutna Hora lies for me less in the individual museums and attractions but in the atmosphere of its historic core and I think one needs more then the four hours I spent there and perhaps also better weather to really explore and enjoy its special late medieval and baroque charm.
Kutna Hora is possibly the third most popular World Heritage Site of Czechia after Prague and Cesky Krumlov, after great peaceful time in Moravia, Kutna Hora welcomed me with the horde of tourists, but unlike Prague and Cesky Krumlov, most of visitor here seem to be European students. I started my visit at Sedlec to see the Cathedral of our Lady, to my surprised the carpark was packed with school tour buses with hundreds of students in front of the cathedral and I saw incredible long queue in front of the famous Ossuary, a scene that immediately made me to turn my car back to somewhere else.
I walked aimlessly around Kutna Hora’s historic center, I could not find anything remarkable from the historic center, except Church of Saint Barbara area which in my opinion the real highlight of this city. The walking promenade from the city center to Church of Saint Barbara along the former Jesuit collage was truly beautiful with great view of below valley and the decorative statues along the pathway, almost similar to Prague historic Charles Bridge. The Gothic Church of Saint Barbara was quite stunning for its location and its unique roof design; however, the interior was not match its exterior attractiveness. Then I walked back to the city center, as I ready mentioned, nothing really stunning, but the city was nice, the wealth from silver mine helped the city development pretty well.
Since Kutna Hora was full with group tours, most of them were actually half day trippers from Prague, so there were times that there were no people at all, except at the Sedlec ossuary. Anyway apart from unique design of Saint Barbara and its lovely surrounding area, I would say Kutna Hora was similar to other lovely Czech cities with nice historic centers and great churches which made me wonder if Kutna Hora has been nominated to be World Heritage Site today, with current standard of ICOMOS, I am not sure it will make a clear cut to be on the list.
This is a film I made about the town Kutna Hora in the Czech Republic (Swedish voice-over with English subtitles).
This site includes two important churches, the Church of Our Lady at Sedlec and the Cathedral of St Barbara in the Old Town. In addition the Old Town also includes a number of other structures including the Italian Court, Little Castle and the Stone Fountain, all of which display interesting carved masonry.
While Sedlec is close to the Kutna Hora main railway station, a shuttle train operates regularly from here to Kutna Hora Mesto station, close to the Old Town.
I visited this WHS in May 2012. The Church of St Barbara and the town centre with the huge Jesuit building are quite interesting to see. In Sedlec, next to the Cathedral, there is a very interesting ossuary or bone church which shouldn't be missed!
I have been twice in the town of Kutná Hora, situated in the valley of the river Vrchlice, that forms also with a precipice the historic centre, divided in Upper and Lower Town. Because of the exploitation of his silver mines it was prosperous from the 13th to the 15th century and became the mint of the kings, that often frequented it and transformed it in one of the most important economic centres of the state. It recovered from the destructions of the hussites wars and from a fire, but the geographical discoveries, after that a lot of silver came from the american mines at lower cost, caused its decline. The most important building is the stunning church of St. Barbara, constructed with the financing of the miners by Peter Parler, Matěj Rejsek and Benedikt Ried. It began as a group of eight radial chapels with trapezoidal interiors arranged in horshoe form separated by trihedral piers with a central axial pillar. Then, after the Hussite Wars, were also added five naves and outer chapels. Then were constructed the choir, supported with double-arched fliying buttresses, and the presbitery. Finally were reconstructed the vaults and the roof. In the 19th century were constructed the facade, the portal and painted the coats of arms on the vaults. Inside you can admire beautiful frescos, glass windows, altars, pulpits and choir stalls. By the church begins the St. Barbara Street with the Chapel of Corpus Christi and the long building of the Jesuitic college, projected by Giovanni Domenico Orsi, which goes to the castle, that has a tower with vaults, nice oriels of the two chapels and the Room of the Riders, with frescos. Near that it is erected so called Italian Court, a big Gothic (reconstructed in the 19th century) mint and residence of the minters, that for some period was also used like a royal palace, with a court, a tower, a privat royal chapel (with a nice choir, statues and altars), some rooms for hearing and receivings with nice ceilings. Adjacent to that is the church of St. James with a tower 82 m high, original furniture and a painting by Johann Peter Brandl, and remains of the fortifications. In a quiet square of the centre is the beautiful Gothic Stone Fountain, projected by Rejsek and the church of St. John of Nepomuk, projected by František Maxmilián Kaňka with nice frescos by Franz Xaver Palko and Josef Redelmayer and statues. Near that, near the nice Square of Palacký and the Street of George of Poděbrady, is also the column of the Virgin. Other churches were constructed in the historic centre: the church of the Ursuline convent,projected by Dientzenhofer, and St. Mary “na Námìtí”. Beautiful are the Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and classical houses in the centre: the Stone House, a decorated Gothic building, the archdeaconry, the Riders' House, the Prince's House and the Sankturini's House. In the quarter of Sedlec is the cathedral of Our Lady, part of a cistercian monastery, constructed in Gothic style, after it was destructed by the Hussites, and reconstructed by P. I. Bayer and Jan Blažej Santini Aichel in his personal style of Gothicizing Baroque. It has five naves, a pentahedral apse, nice vaults, frescos by Johann Jacob Steinfels and paintings by Brandl.
I liked very much this town because of the beauty of its architecture even if the most important monuments were closed when I went there. It's absolutely worth to be visited and justifies the inscription, also because its historical importance, even if could be inscribed also the ossuary of Sedlec.
Photo: Kutná Hora - Church of St. Barbara
Kutna Hora presented itself to me as a charming and quiet town. I stayed there for 4 days (in Hotel Garni Na Havlicku, recommended). Quite a lot of restaurants there have garden terraces, and the food is good and cheap. Actually, everything is.
My sightseeing in and around town brought me to the Italian Court. During Kutna Hora's silver rush this functioned as the Royal Mint. The interior is palace-like. Also worth mentioning is the Ossuary in Sedlec. This freak sight dates from 1870 - when Frantisek Rint decided to become creative with the bones of the 40.000 people buried here.
And I didn't even get to see what is reported to be the highlight of Kutna Hora: an underground tour through the silver mine shafts. At this time of year (and on weekends) you really have to pre-book this guided tour. Unfortunately, I wasn't aware of that. But Kutna Hora was really worth visiting anyway.
Because of its rich silver mines, Kutna Hora was Bohemia´s second largest city in the Late Middle Ages and in the Renaissance period. Today it has lost much of its importance, but it´s still one of the Czech Republic´s star attractions. The old town of Kutna Hora is well preserved and offers a great view of the surrounding area, since it´s located on a hill. The church of St. Barbara, the Italian Court and the Czech Silver Museum are definitely worth a visit (although I didn´t get to go on a tour of the mines, either). The suburb of Sedlec offers two more attractions - the Cathedral of Our Lady (newly renovated) and the weird Ossuary, which isn´t, as far as I can see, a part of the World Heritage site, but should be. Kutna Hora is an easy daytrip from Prague, but can also be reached from Brno. It´s definitely one of the best sights in the Czech Republic.
A very pleasant day trip from Prague, Kutna Hora offers much for the active visitor. As mentioned below, the train station is actually in a different town, Sedlec, a few kilometres away, but fortunately, the walk is interrupted by a visit to the eerie Ossuary, in which the bones of some 40,000 people are artistically arranged (picture to the right). The rest of the walk takes you through the mostly modern outskirts of Kutna Hora, which tell you little of the pleasures that await in the centre. The old town is dominated by St. Barbara's Cathedral that sits on the hill, but the main square and other smaller churches are very enjoyable as well. Busses run relatively infrequently, particularly on weekends, which means that the best, if somewhat tiring, mode of transport around is footpower.
Kutna Hora makes a great half/ full day trip from Prague. I have great memories of this place and it is well worth the short trip out here. The centre is quite nice with a few interesting churches and some nice back alleys to lose yourself in, however the highlight is Sv. Barbara’s Cathedral which is particularly impressive. The approach to it is lined with statues, similar to Prague’s Charles Bridge, with lovely views over the river valley below. The roof and flying buttresses make the cathedral spectacular and make it different from many other cathedrals on the list. The interior is nice but nothing really spectacular.
The train station is quite a way from the town centre. You can catch a bus up but I would recommend walking as this would means you can call into a strange addition to the site which is the Ossuary in Sedlec. It is just off the main road to the centre. The interior of the church like building is decorated with bones in a particularly intricate way.
There are a fair few nice restaurants and cafes in the centre to while away the time. There is enough to see here for a few very laid back days, however it is a very viable day trip from the capital. It is only an hour’s train journey, though you may have to change trains at Kolin to take the local train one stop south.
We spent several hours in Kutna Hora (mainly in St. Barbara), en route for Opava, in August 2004.
St. Barbara was stunning - especially the interior. I'm only sorry that I can't find any web pictures of the interior (and not many of the exterior either!).
This cathedral, and the whole city are well worth an extended visit. We want to return, and explore it properly before long.
Kutna Hora is a charming place. The Cathedral of St Barbara is as wonderful as the Sedlec Ossuary is macabre and unique. There are some beautiful buidlings, not least the interior of the Italian court.
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