19 Bejeweled Skeletons That’ll Blow Your Mind

Oh, you didn’t know the skeletons of martyrs were unabashedly decked out in gems? WELCOME TO THE CLUB. posted on

The following excerpts are from Dr. Paul Koudounaris, who recently published a book, Heavenly Bodies, in which he explains the history behind each of the decorated martyrs.

1. St. Maximus (Bürglen, Switzerland)

Paul Koudounaris

“He was believed to have been an Early Christian soldier who was martyred (hence the armor). He was decorated in the late 17th century and became associated with the legend of a feral white cat, which some believed was his ghost that prowled the village to check on its residents.”

2. St. Konstantious (Rorschach, Switzerland)

Paul Koudounaris

“One of the finest decorated skeletons in Switzerland, he has been present in the church since the 17th century, but is now hidden behind a painted cover.”

3. Head relic of St. Deodatus (Roggenburg, Germany)

Paul Koudounaris

“In some cases, not enough of the original skeleton was found to enable the decorators to articulate the entire body. That was apparently the case here, and a wax face and mesh veil were fashioned over the skull.”

4. St. Vincentus (Stams, Austria)

Paul Koudounaris

“One of four decorated skeletons in the monastery church in Stams, he raises his hand to hide his face in a gesture of humility.”

5. St. Pancratius (Wil, Switzlerand)

Paul Koudounaris

“He wear armor because he was believed to have been an Early Christian soldier who was martyred. The current suit of armor was made by a silversmith in Augsburg, Germany, in the 18th century. The skeleton was vandalized in the 20th century — its skull was stolen, but later returned and placed back in its helmet.”

6. Konrad II (Mondsee, Austria)

Paul Koudounaris

“He is the only one in this group that was not believed to be an Early Christian martyr. A medieval abbot of the town’s monastery, he was so famed that when the fad for decorating skeletons became popularized, his bones were exhumed and decorated in the same style in order to give him prominence.”

7. St. Felix (Gars am Inn, Germany)

Paul Koudounaris

“He arrived at the town’s monastery church in the 17th century and was credited with an important miracle — it was believed that he saved the town’s market from being destroyed in a fire. Because of this, a pilgrimage in his honor became popular.”

8. St. Luciana (Heiligkreuztal, Germany)

Paul Koudounaris

“One of four full skeletons once owned by the nuns at the convent in Heiligkreuztal. She is no longer displayed in the church, but is kept in a small museum on the property.”

9. St. Leontius (Muri, Switzerland)

Paul Koudounaris

“One of the most famous of the jeweled skeletons, he was a popular healing saint, and his relic was said to even have the power to raise dead children.”

10. St. Canditus (Irsee, Germany)

Paul Koudounaris

“One of three skeletons once owned by the monastery church in Irsee. He wears sumptuous clothing that was donated by local nobles, and then tailored for the skeleton with cut outs to reveal the bones.”

11. St. Faustine (Porrentruy, Switzerland)

Paul Koudounaris

“She was a popular local patron saint, but her appearance was later found to be too macabre for modern tastes, and she was moved to a storage unit.”

Writer’s note: :(

12. St. Valerius (Weyarn, Germany)

Paul Koudounaris

“One of the finest of all the decorated skeletons in Germany, his relic is still present in the town’s former monastic church.”

13. St. Albertus (Burgrain, Germany)

Paul Koudounaris

“The skeleton arrived in the town’s small church dedicated to St. George in the early 18th century and was sumptuously decorated by a local nun.”

14. St. Deodatus (Rheinau, Swizterland)

Paul Koudounaris

“One of two seated skeletons which arrived late in the 17th century in the town’s monastic church. He shows a rare style of facial decorations, with a wax mask molded over the upper half of the skull, and a cloth wrap over the lower half, with a cut away to reveal the teeth.”

15. St. Friedrich (Melk, Austria)

Paul Koudounaris

“This was a gift to the monastic church there from the Empress Maria Theresa. The name is certainly a fabrication, since he was believed to be an Early Christian martyr from Rome, but Friedrich is not a Roman name.”

16. Hand of St. Valentin (Bad Schussenried, Germany)

Paul Koudounaris

“This delicate hand reaches out towards the viewer, holding the shaft of a torch.”

17. St. Benedictus (Berg am Laim, Munich, Germany)

Paul Koudounaris

“One of two exquisitely decorated skeletons sent to a former aristocratic church dedicated to St. Michael.”

18. St. Munditia (Munich, Germany)

Paul Koudounaris

“Once believed to be the patron saint of spinsters, she was boarded up because she was seen as too grotesque for modern tastes.”

19. St. Valentinus (Waldsassen, Germany)

Paul Koudounaris

“One of ten full articulated, jeweled skeletons in the town’s church, which is the largest intact collection in existence.”

A gallery of the photos is currently on display at the La Luz De Jesus Gallery in LA through December 1.


And for even more photos, check out Koudounaris’ website, Empire de la Mort!

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