Yesterday it was family apple-picking, today it’s jewelled skeletons… welcome to my world.
A link to photographer Paul Koudounaris’ upcoming book gave me a true visual jolt. I can’t stop looking at these but they do make me supremely uneasy.
In late 16th-century Rome, the remains of what were believed to be thousands of Christian martyrs were unearthed from catacombs beneath the city. The bones were sent to churches around Germany, Austria and Switzerland and re-assembled, then painstakingly adorned with elaborate jewels and clothing and displayed in public reliquaries. The ‘Heavenly Bodies’ were revered as encompassments of “the spiritual treasures that awaited the faithful after death” (Thames & Hudson) for hundreds of years. Eventually their authenticity was called into question and they were concealed or destroyed. Koudounaris has been granted extraordinary access to a host of these truly bizarre relics; with the skeletons appearing in photographs for the very first time.
Religious ties aside, this incongruous mashup of the glittery ornate and the starkly macabre will be etched in my mind for awhile. What do you think – pretty dark, eh?
Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures & Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs will be available for sale October 8th. You can see more photos from the book over at Atlas Obscura (thanks to Kirsty McKenzie for the link). All photographs copyright Paul Koudounaris.