Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures + Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs by Dr. Paul Koudounaris


Heavenly Bodies is an intriguing visual history of the veneration in European churches + monasteries of bejeweled + decorated skeletons. In 1578 news came of the discovery in Rome of a labyrinth of underground tombs, which were thought to hold the remains of thousands of early Christian martyrs. Skeletons of these supposed saints were subsequently sent to Catholic churches + religious houses in German-speaking Europe to replace holy relics that had been destroyed in the wake of the Protestant Reformation. The skeletons, known as the catacomb saints, were carefully reassembled, richly dressed in fantastic costumes, wigs, crowns, jewels + armor + posed in elaborate displays inside churches + shrines as reminders to the faithful of the heavenly treasures that awaited them after death. Dr. Paul Koudounaris gained unprecedented access to religious institutions to reveal these fascinating historical artifacts. Hidden for over a century as Western attitudes toward both the worship of holy relics + death itself changed, some of these ornamented skeletons appear in publication here for the first time. Death has never looked so beautiful. This book was sold in conjunction with Dr. Paul Koudounaris’ art exhibit at La Luz de Jesus Gallery on November 1st, 2013. Hardcover. 105 illustrations, 90 in color. 192 pages.

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