Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures & Spectacular Saints From The Catacombs

Tuesday, October 15th at 7 pm, Northtown Books welcomes art historian and photographer Paul Koudounaris, author of Heavenly Bodies, for a booksigning and presentation. His earlier book The Empire of Death included photos from photographs from ossuaries throughout Europe, but Heavenly Bodies delves even deeper into study of obscure macabre art history by presenting the extraordinary story of a group of skeletons taken from the Roman Catacombs in the seventeenth century and decorated with jewels by teams of nuns. The book described how these extravagant cadavers, known as catacomb saints, were often mistakenly identified as Early Christian martyrs, then sent primarily to German-speaking lands where they were decorated and placed into Catholic Churches. Such skeletons are scarcely known today, having been mostly removed and destroyed during the Enlightenment, but Koudounaris tracked down surviving examples and photographed them for the book.

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