Heavenly Bodies – Jeweled Sacred Skeletons of the 16th Century

Photo by Dr. Paul Koudounaris, tonight’s speaker, from his new book “Heavenly Bodies.”

Illustrated lecture and book party with Dr. Paul Koudounaris, with music and artisinal cocktails by Friese Undine
Date: Friday, October 11
Time: 8:00
Admission: $8
Produced by Morbid Anatomy

**Copies of Heavenly Bodies will be available for sale and signing

Tonight, Dr. Paul Koudounaris-author of Empire of Death, the definitive book on ossuaries-will present a heavily illustrated talk based on his new book Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures and Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs, the story of skeletons discovered in the Roman Catacombs in the late sixteenth century.

These largely anonymous skeletons were presented as the remains of Early Christian martyrs, and treated as sacred. They were sent to Catholic churches and religious houses in German-speaking Europe to replace the holy relics that had been destroyed in the wake of the Protestant Reformation. Here, the skeletons would be carefully reassembled and richly adorned with jewels and precious costumes by teams of nuns. Intended as flamboyant devotional items, they are now considered some of the finest works of art ever created in the medium of human bone. As time passed, faith in these sumptuously decorated skeletons-once an important part of the spiritual life of many people-wavered, until finally they were cast out during the Enlightenment as remnants of a superstitious and embarrassing Catholic past.

Largely forgotten in the annals of religious history, Dr. Koudounaris gained unprecedented access to religious institutions where the surviving decorated skeletons are held. His photographs are the first that were ever taken of many of them, and the images which will accompany his lecture are bizarre, moving, and beautiful.

Dr. Paul Koudounaris holds a PhD in Art History (UCLA) and has taught classes at numerous universities and published in magazines throughout the world. He is the author of The Empire of Death, the first illustrated history of charnel houses and religious sanctuaries decorated with human bone. Named one of the ten best books of 2011 (London Evening Standard), it has garnered international attention for its combination of unique historical research and stunning photography.

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