Paul Koudounaris, who is also known by his nickname ‘Indiana Bones’ is an novelist, photographer and top professional on bone-decorated places and ossuarys. Earlier this year, Koudounaris released a hardback that includes high definition imagery of that 400-year-old ‘catacomb saints’ of Rome, a bunch of corpses that was carefully ornamented with charms and finery prior to being offered as the remnants of saints to congregations across Europe.
Through the Protestant Reorganization of the 16th Century, Catholic church buildings were routinely stripped of these relics, cryptogram and finery. So they can counter this, The Vatican had antiquated skeletons removed from the Catacombs of Rome and generously adorned as a remains of recognized saints.
Though mostly forgotten until Koudounaris published his book, the catacomb saints continue to fascinate fascinated parties; they may still encourage religious zeal. In 1977, the settlement of Ruttenbach in Bavaria worked hard to raise sufficient funds to buy back 2 of the original saints from undisclosed collectors, the decorative skeletons had originally been auctioned off in 1803.
The book, which Koudounaris has surreptitiously titled ‘Heavenly Bodies’ sees its writer try to locate and photograph each of these present catacomb saints.
In his prime (a age that lasted over 200 years before decisively coming to a close within the 19th century), the saints traversed far and wide, being transported at great expense by the Church. They were adored as things of affection, or conduits for prayer.
Though the saints could appear strange to contemporary eyes (one Telegraph reporter described them as ‘ghastly’), it’s imperative that you realise those that prayed at the feet of those gilded cadavers were a great deal closer to demise than their contemporary counterparts. In the wake of The Black Death (which recurred frequently all through Europe from the 14th to the 17th Centuries), art, literature and worship had moved to embrace such ghoulish, macabre metaphors.
The remnants were typically decorated by nuns and sometimes placed in different realistic poses, before being secured in glass cabinets. Some of the careful decoration took as long as 5 years to finish, with jewelry and costumes being exceptionally grand.
Koudounaris’ book, ‘Heavenly Bodies’ is available now.