The Katakombenheiligen , or Catacomb Saints, were a series of decorated skeletons decorated by the Catholic Church, in part an attempt to prevent followers from leaving the church in droves during the Protestant Reformation. These skeletons were truly works of art. Decorated with precious stones, rich cloth and intense attention to detail, the morbid is outweighed by the beautiful.
Many of these statues were hidden away during World Wars and international conflict, but many remain at convents, cathedrals and monasteries. Several have names in common with the more famous Saints of Catholicism.
One of the better collections I’ve seen is within Paul Koudounaris’ book, Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures & Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs. If you want to see some of the most beautifully decorated skeletons and skulls, the book is worth a look and rests well on the coffee table of
the morbid collector.
Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures & Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs is now available from Thames & Hudson Press.