Bejeweled Saint Benedictus

Jewel Covered Saints

No, the above isn’t a DMT entity made flesh (or more accurately, bone) – it’s the alleged skeleton of St. Benedictus, captured by LA-based photographer and author Paul Koudounaris, whose book Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures & Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs is available now from Amazon UK, or on pre-order (October release) from Amazon US.

The jeweled skeletons were originally found in catacombs beneath Rome in 1578, and distributed as replacements under the belief they were Christian martyrs to churches that had lost their saint relics in the Reformation. However, for most, their identities were not known. The receiving churches then spent years covering the revered skeletal strangers with jewels and golden clothing, even filling their eye sockets and sometimes adorning their teeth with finery. Yet when the Enlightenment came around they became a little embarrassing for the sheer amount of money and excess they represented, and many were hidden away or disappeared. Koudounaris tracked down the dead survivors.

Totally macabre and absolutely wonderful. See more images, with descriptions, at the ever-fascinating Atlas Obscura.