There was a time when we assumed our post-mortem days would be of the drab variety, that once all our earthly possessions had disintegrated into the earth only a measly skeleton would remain.
That time is no longer, thanks to an intoxicating photo series by Los Angeles based art historian Dr. Paul Koudounaris.
St. Felix, Gars-am-Inn, Germany
The collection, entitled "Heavenly Bodies," explores a treasure trove of underground tombs, all thought to hold the remains of early Christian martyrs.
"Skeletons of these supposed saints were subsequently sent to Catholic churches and religious houses in German-speaking Europe to replace holy relics that had been destroyed in the wake of the Protestant Reformation," explains Koudounaris' book of the same name. Basically, after much of the religious art was destroyed by Protestants, the 16th century church decided to treat selected skeletons as if they were saints. The lucky skeletons were then blinged out from skull to toe, drenched in wigs, crowns, jewels, furs and armor.
Koudounaris' photographs allow a glimpse into the Baroque corners of the most glamorous human remains we could ever imagine, traversing burial grounds from Bolivia to Switzerland to Indonesia. The stunning photographs capture a dark and decadent ritual just on the heels of Dia de los Muertos. We haven't been so entranced and creeped out at the same time since riding Pirates of the Caribbean. See for yourself below.
St. Konstantius, Rorschach, Switzerland
St. Pancratius, Wil, Switzerland
St. Hyacinthus, Gutenzell, Germany
Bone house with plague crucifix (Pestkreuz), Leuk, Switzerland
Burial cave, Tana Toraja, Sulawesi, Indonesia
Skull with flowers, Fiesta de las ñatitas, La Paz, Bolivia
Skulls in coffin outside burial cave, Tana Toraja, Sulawesi, Indonesia
St. Coronatus, Heiligkreuztal, Germany
"Heavenly Bodies" is on display at La Luz De Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles until December 1, 2013.