Friday, 6 December 2013


Mystery of Europe's jeweled skeletons

Paul Koudounaris is a history professor from Californa, US. He has spent last 3 years visiting different ancient ossuaries and churches around the Europe & snapping their macabre treasures. These are the Catocomb Saints, a sequence of jewel encrusted skeletons said to be remains of Christian saints. Ornamented with 100 of precious stones and various pound of gold and silver,

the Catacomb Saints photographed by Koudounaris for his new book called empire of death. The skeletons dug up from Roman Catacombs in the sixteen century placed in churches around Austria, Germany and Switzerland. The order of the Vatican to replace the sacred relics destroyed during the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s. Though none of them are experienced as saints, the authorities from the Vatican signed certificates recognizing the dug-up skeletons as martyrs.

The bones remained packed in boxes and sent from Rome to different monasteries around the central Europe. Where nuns ornamented them with gold and silver jewelry covered with valuable stones. Since the skeletons were believed to be Christian martyrs, their bones could not be touched by anybody but only by those who had taken a sacred vow to the Church. When the enhancing work was finished the bejewelled remains were sent to churches and cathedrals. 

Where they were remind people of the spiritual treasures of the afterlife and acted as symbols of the Christian Church’s power in previously Protestant areas.By the nineteen century the Catacomb Saints & their dubious martyr origin had become nothing but attractively ornamented reminders of an embarrassing past. Most of them were reserved from their church show niches, stripped of their honours and locked away in containers for safe keeping. 

Their existence has persisted mainly unidentified, after determining one of these morbid treasures. The Los Angeles based Paul Koudounaris identified it was his responsibility to tell their mesmerizing story. During a 3 years trip around the world, he has snapped catacombs and ossuaries and crypts in countries like Egypt, Italy, Austria, Peru, Cambodia, the Czech Republic, Portugal, Ecuador, Germany, and Greece among others. Charming pictures and stories of these places have been included in his new book called empire of death.