Much as I deplore the imported Hallowe'en overkill and the infantilised craze for zombification, I can't help using the occasion as a pretext for catching up with coverage of an extraordinary place I never got round to writing about last summer. The subterranean kostnice or ossuary beneath the Church of All Saints in Sedlec, virtually a suburb of Kutná Hora in the Czech republic, outstrips the equivalents I've seen in Italy, even if there is no dressing-up of skeletons.
Instead the estimated 40 to 70 thousand complete sets accumulated since the scattering of holy earth from the presumed Golgotha in 1278, an occasion which had the Bohemian aristocracy wanting to be laid to rest in the cemetery, were fashioned into bizarre sculptures.
This happened in 1870, when woodcarver (!) František Rint did his damnedest with the remains, signing his name in bones. His pièce de resistance, a chandelier rendered from every bone in the human body, had been taken away for restoration when we visited, but there was no shortage of kitschy-ghoulish spectacle, and as - rather unusually, I gather, we had the place more or less to ourselves, the atmosphere was strong. First, a view towards the altar
and back towards the west end. The pyramids remind me of similar decoration in the very different context of the 18th century Vogelsaal in Bamberg's Natural History Museum.
Here Rint has even applied his skill to the Schwarzenberg coat of arms
and even the vases on the steps down to the crypt are bone-wrought.
Since we're in Kutná Hora - for which we were so grateful to Zdeněk Porybný's driver for giving us the chance to see on the way back from lovely Litomyšl and Martinů's home town of Polička - I ought to revert to colour to hymn the greater artistic treasure, and one of the most beautiful buildings in Czechia, the Cathedral of Sv Barbora.
Kutna Hora's one-time prosperity as the second finest city in Bohemia next to Prague came about from its copper and silver deposits. They were mined by Germans and circa 1300 Vaclav II set up the Royal Mint here, importing Florentines for the purpose. The minters' chapel is frescoed with their work.
Benedikt Ried's ribbed vaulting, decorated with coats of arms belonging to Vaclav and the local miners' guilds, complements a glorious Gothic east end
and the riot of pinnacles, finials and buttresses makes the outside ensemble - despite additions of later periods - one of the most harmonious of any religious edifice.
Though we actually entered through the gardens at the east end,
the Cathedral is perhaps best approached by a walkway with statues rivalling those on Prague's Charles Bridge to your left and the 17th century former Jesuit college to the right.
Even better are the views from sundry lower paths,
and the woods are always close to hand, full of birdsong in May.
Back to bones to conclude - I only recently found out that Saint-Saëns expanded his Danse Macabre into the celebrated tone-poem from a song set to part of a poem by Henri Cazalis. Who better to sing it than the great José van Dam, with Jean-Philippe Collard?