Koudounaris’ book, ‘Heavenly Bodies’ is available now.

Paul Koudounaris, who is also known by his nickname ‘Indiana Bones’ in known as an writer, photographer and leading professional on bone-decorated places and ossuarys. Earlier in 2013, Koudounaris released a hardback that includes high definition imagery of that 400-year-old ‘catacomb saints’ of Rome, a bunch of corpses that had been meticulously decorated with gems and finery ahead of being presented as the remains of saints to congregations around Europe.

Through the Protestant Overhaul of that 16th Century, Catholic churches were routinely stripped of these relics, cryptogram and finery. So they can defy this, The Vatican had antique skeletons removed out of the Catacombs of Rome and lavishly adorned as the remnants of recognized saints.

Although mostly forgotten until Koudounaris released his book, the catacomb saints continue to fascinate concerned parties; they can still encourage religious zeal. In 1977, the town of Ruttenbach in Bavaria labored hard to raise sufficient funds to buy back 2 of the original saints from secretive collectors, the ornamental skeletons had initially been auctioned off in 1803.

The book, which Koudounaris has surreptitiously titled ‘Heavenly Bodies’ sees its author attempt to find and photograph each of these existing crypt saints.

In his heyday (a period that lasted over 200 years before conclusively coming to a close in the nineteenth century), the saints traversed everywhere, being transported at great expense by the Church. They were respected as objects of affection, or conduits for prayer.

Though the saints may seem odd to contemporary eyes (one Telegraph reporter described them as ‘ghastly’), it is important to remember that those that prayed at the feet of the gilded cadavers were a lot nearer to death than their modern counterparts. While in the wake of The Black Death (which recurred repeatedly throughout Europe from the 14th to the 17th Centuries), art, literature and also worship had come to accept such ghoulish, macabre images.

The remnants were typically garlanded by nuns and often positioned in various lifelike poses, before being secured in glass cabinets. Some of the scrupulous decoration took as long as five years to finish, with jewelry and costumes being acutely impressive.

Koudounaris’ book, ‘Heavenly Bodies’ is available now.

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