Death has never looked so decadent as in Paul Koudounaris' nuts photos

21 November 2014
Reading Time
1 minute read

Ever wondered what happens when you die? Do our souls live on in heaven, frolicking about with those of our lost loved ones? Is there a dark, black nothingness? Or do we get stuffed to the eyeballs with gems and a big shiny crown thrust on our heads until we’re all trussed up like a little skeleton Liberace?

Well, if you were a so called “catacomb saint”, it may well have been the final option, with a hefty haul of jewels brightly jazzing up your afterlife. These incredible photographs by LA-based historian and photographer Paul Koudounaris show the decadent little figures discovered in Rome in 1578, a rather flashily attired bunch of characters assumed to be early Christian martyrs.

On their discovery all those years ago, the bones were dug up and sent to many Catholic churches and religious houses in German-speaking Europe to replace holy relics that had been destroyed during the Protestant Reformation, according to Thames & Hudson, which published the book of the images. The bones were reassembled, decorated in lavish outfits and gems and displayed with the aim of showing people how great they could look once they die if they live a faithful Christian life. Later, when the church began to feel a bit embarrassed about all these opulent corpses, the poor skeletons were destroyed or hidden. But here they are again, showing us that if we’re really really good, we too could potentially look this glamorous when we too shuffle off this mortal coil.


Paul Koudounaris: St Albertus


Paul Koudounaris: In Stams, Austria


Paul Koudounaris: Hand of St Valentin


Paul Koudounaris: St Valentinus in Waldsassen


Paul Koudounaris: St Felix, Sursee Switzerland


Paul Koudounaris:-St Valerius in Weyarn

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About the Author

Emily Gosling

Emily joined It’s Nice That as Online Editor in the summer of 2014 after four years at Design Week. She is particularly interested in graphic design, branding and music. After working It's Nice That as both Online Editor and Deputy Editor, Emily left the company in 2016.

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