Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures and Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs is a new book by art historian Paul Koudounaris which represents the next chapter in the author's ongoing fascination with the historic rituals and practices of death.
Photo by Paul Koudounaris
This book depicts skeletons believed to belong to religious martyrs, taken from Roman Catacombs and covered head-to-toe in gold and precious gems. The photos were taken at over seventy sites in Austria, Cambodia, the Czech Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Italy, Peru, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, and many more.
Heavenly Bodies is the sequel to Koudounaris's celebrated book Empire of Death, a collection of photos and detailed notes on ossuaries, catacombs, crypts, mausoleums and other repositories of human remains from all over the world.
"My great-grandfather was a grave-robber,” Koudounaris told L.A. Weekly in 2011, explaining how his ancestor obtained Egyptian mummies for apothecaries, who would then grind them up and sell them as medicine (a once-popular practice known as “mummia”). “So in a way, I wonder if this book was, in some way, completing the family line."
Learn more about Koudounaris's books, lectures and other resources at his official site, Empire de la Mort.