Sunday, December 14, 2014

‘Jewel Encrusted Skeleton ‘Saints’ Make Headlines Round the World’

Paul Koudounaris, who is also well-known by his nickname ‘Indiana Bones’ is an novelist, photographer and leading professional on bone-decorated sites and ossuarys. Earlier this year, Koudounaris released a hardback featuring hd images of the 400-year-old ‘catacomb saints’ of Rome, a bunch of corpses that was painstakingly garlanded with jewels and finery prior to being offered as the remains of saints to congregations across Europe.

During the Protestant Overhaul of that 16th Century, Catholic church buildings were routinely stripped of their relics, cryptogram and finery. To be able to defy this, The Vatican had antique skeletons removed out of the Catacombs of Rome and generously bejeweled as a remnants of recognizable saints.

Even though typically forgotten until Koudounaris published his book, the catacomb saints still fascinate interested parties; they may also still inspire religious zeal. In 1977, the town of Ruttenbach in Bavaria labored hard to raise enough funds to purchase back two of their original saints from confidential collectors, the decorative skeletons had initially been auctioned off in 1803.

The book, that Koudounaris has slyly titled ‘Heavenly Bodies’ sees its author attempt to find and photograph each of the existing catacomb saints.

In his prime (a period that lasted over 200 years before decisively coming to a close in the nineteenth century), the saints traversed in all places, being transported at vast expense by the Church. They were respected as objects of care, or conduits for prayer.

Though the saints could appear odd to modern eyes (one Telegraph reporter described them as ‘ghastly’), it is crucial that you understand that those that prayed at the feet of the gilded cadavers were a great deal nearer to demise than their contemporary counterparts. In the wake of The Black Death (which recurred frequently throughout Europe from the 14th to the 17th Centuries), art, literature and also worship had moved to accept such ghoulish, macabre imagery.

The remnants were regularly adorned by nuns and sometimes positioned in various realistic poses, before being secured in glass cabinets. Some of our careful decoration took as long as five years to complete, with jewellery and costumes being exceptionally impressive.

Koudounaris’ book, ‘Heavenly Bodies’ is on the market now.

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