Kostel Svateho Jiri (St. George’s Church) was finished and consecrated in 1352, but over the next 300 years it experienced decidedly more than its fair share of devastating fires and other spooky (according to locals) events. When, in 1968, part of the roof collapsed during a funeral service, it proved to be the final straw for the fleeing congregation. They decided to go ahead and admit what they’d known all along – the place was haunted as shit.
Afterward, they chose to hold mass under the open sky rather than gather inside the building, which subsequently fell into disrepair. Over the years, on top of the natural weathering and decay, the church was looted. Everything from paintings and religious items, to statues, even the bell and clock in the tower fell victim to vandalism.
But the church is a cultural monument of the Czech Republic, and, soon enough, people felt as though they should save it. One problem: they had no money, and no one seemed able or willing to donate to the cause.
That all changed, as it so often does, with a single idea. Jakub Hadrava, a sculpture student at the University of West Bohemia, decided to sculpt life-sized ghosts to sit in the pews of the abandoned church. His fellow students wrapped themselves in raincoats and plastic to serve as the models, and over the months, 30 ghosts came to live in Kostel Svateho Jiri.
Some might (and do) find the place a little eerie, but Jakub also wanted the place to serve as a monument to the troubled history of the Czech Republic. Lukova was once part of the Austria-Hungarian empire, later becoming part of Czechoslovakia after WWI. Then, the Nazis invaded and annexed the area in 1938, proclaiming every German-speaking inhabitant a German. After the war, those same citizens were expelled from the country.
Jakub’s ghosts are meant to evoke the German-speaking people who once lived in Lukova – who, indeed, built the church, but were subsequently forced to leave.
And his plan has worked, at least in terms of reviving the church. Once word of his “ghost church” made it into the international press, tourists began to come…and fork over cash to help preserve and restore the old building. They’ve been able to repair the roof and secure the structure (extra good news if you’re planning to visit). Not only that, but the people of Lukova have come back to the old church, as well. They now worship again inside, sitting among the “ghosts” who saved their little treasure from destruction.
I guess you really can go home again.