Beautiful Death – The Catacomb Saints

skeletons with jewels

How much cooler are these dead saints covered in bling than Damien Hirst’s diamond skull? The 400 year old skeletons were dressed up and decorated by churches and distributed to other churches and monasteries throughout Germany, Austria and Switzerland. They’re each dressed as a particular saint but the skeletons didn’t necessarily belong to anyone of any great religious importance. The jewels, costumes, armor and other bling were meant to represent the heavenly treasures that awaited the faithful in death. I would much prefer my gold in this life ;-)

Art historian Paul Koudounaris put together a book of the catacomb saints called Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures and Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs. It’ll be released on the 8th of October but you can pre-order it at Amazon.

Here’s some of the fascinating jewel encrusted skeletons captured by the historian nicknamed “Indiana Bones” for obvious reasons..

jewel encrusted skeleton

Paul Koudounaris – St Benedictus

catacomb skeletons

Paul Koudounaris - St Valerius in Weyarn

jeweled skull of saints

Paul Koudounaris - St Luciana

catacomb saints with jewels

Paul Koudounaris - St Deodatus in Rheinau

skeletons with jewelry

Paul Koudounaris - St Valentinus in Waldsassen

St Vincentus skeleton with jewels

Paul Koudounaris - St Vincentus

The Heavenly Bodies book can be found here at Amazon or find out more about Paul Koudounaris and his other projects at his Empire de la Mort website here. His previous book called The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses is just as fascinating.. if you’re fascinated in that kind of thing ;-)

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. Verry cool, a virtual art museum with mummy mannequins. Better to use the jewels for public benefit than hidden for the rich in life or buried for a supposed afterlife.

    • I’m thinking it might be a good idea to have this done to my skeleton when I jump off into another dimension Donald ;-)
      I’ll have to start saving jewels and work on a design right away. Obviously I want my middle finger raised and covered in gold.. so I won’t be very saint-like.. lol

  2. These are spectacular, not something I would want done with my bones but definitely interesting.

  3. Wow – a fascinting look at the extravagances of humanity! It’s a bit obscene really – all that wealth going to waste. :)


  1. […] Koudounaris and his skeletons covered in bling were […]

Speak Your Mind