The Empire Of Death

The Empire Of Death

A Cultural History Of Ossuaries And Charnel Houses

Book - 2011
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It is sometimes said that death is the last taboo, but it was not always so. For centuries, religious establishments constructed decorated ossuaries and charnel houses that stand as masterpieces of art created from human bone. These unique structures have been pushed into the footnotes of history; they were part of a dialogue with death that is now silent.

The sites in this specially photographed and brilliantly original study range from the Monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Palermo, where the living would visit mummified or skeletal remains and lovingly dress them; to the Paris catacombs; to fantastic bone-encrusted creations in Austria, Cambodia, the Czech Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Italy, Peru, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, and elsewhere.

Paul Koudounaris photographed more than seventy sites for this book. He analyzes the role of these remarkable memorials within the cultures that created them, as well as the mythology and folklore that developed around them, and skillfully traces a remarkable human endeavor.
Publisher: London : Thames & Hudson, 2011.
ISBN: 9780500251782
Characteristics: 224 p. :,ill. ;,32 cm


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Apr 06, 2012

This is one of those stunningly visual publications that draws the reader in on many levels - cultural, visual and intellectual. It is very interesting to see the journey that western culture has undergone collectively in terms of their attitudes towards the deceased. This book assists us in our rediscovery of our own social and cultural history, beliefs and world-view. My how it has changed over the centuries! Very compelling read - although unfortunately the print is rather small!


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