This outing takes us to two sites just a few kilometres and thousands of years apart.
The Bull Rock Cave is part of a 13Km cave system, the second-longest in Moravia, Czech Republic.
It was investigated in the mid 19th century by Jindřich Wankel, a local archaeologist. He discovered a Palaeolithic settlement from around 100,000 - 10,000 BC. Later, a statuette of a bronze bull was found. The site contained animal and material offerings, crops, textiles, ceramic and sheet-metal vessels, jewellery, glass and amber beads.
According to Wankel, the skeletons of one man and forty young women were found. Some women were beheaded, some missing legs or hands. On a small "altar" a skull and severed hands were placed. Later research identified seventeen skeletons as men; the people ranged from children up to adults of 50–60 years old.
During the war Nazis used the caves as an underground factory. Later exploration revealed a cave containing a Neolithic picture, currently the oldest cave painting known in the Czech Republic. It depicts a geometrical shape resembling a grill with a size of 30x40 cm, painted in charcoal on the cave wall. It was radio-carbon dates as 5,200 years old. The pattern resembles the decorations on some ceramic vessels from that period.
As archaelogical work continues we cannot enter this cave system, but can see many of the remarkable finds in its visitor centre.
Legend has it that Saints Cyril and Methodius (the missionary
brothers who brought Christianity to the Slavs and devised what we now
call Cyrillic script) baptised people here. Thus it became one of the
oldest pilgrimage sites. Oral tradition further credits the place with
an appearance of the Virgin Mary of Křtiny in 1210 among the blossom
from a horse chestnut tree.
Smaller churches on the spot were replaced in the 18th century by a complex nicknamed the Pearl of Moravia. Jan Santini-Aichel built this beautiful baroque church. It has none of the gloom of many cathedrals, but is light and packed with paintings. For many on pilgrimage the main feature is a Gothic statue of the Virgin Mary of Křtiny.
Other attractions include a remarkable automated carillon.
In the crypt below the church is a vast ossuary where a special discovery was made in the early 1990s: twelve skulls painted with laurel wreaths and the letter T.