The art historian and L.A.-based photographer Paul Koudounaris spent years tracking down the skeletons of early (supposed) Christian martyrs and photographing their remains for his book, "Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures and Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs" (due for release October 8th). The skeletons were discovered in Rome in the 16th century and then sent to Catholic churches across German-speaking Europe to be dressed, adorned and enshrined as holy relics. They were intended to replace the relics destroyed during the tumult of the Protestant Reformation. The photos by Mr. Koudounaris document an unprecedented number of these skeletons, many of which have been tucked away and out of sight in churches and storage units for nearly a century.
The article in The Daily Mail chooses (unfortunately) to conjure Indiana Jones and describe some of the remains as "gruesome" but the UK Huffington Post mostly resists the temptation to sensationalize the work. Mr. Koudounaris believes that the remains represent "the finest works of art in human bone ever made." It is difficult to disagree.
Photos courtesy of The Daily Mail, Copyright Paul Koudounaris/BNPS