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The Empire of Death : A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses
by Paul Koudounaris


Overview - 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.  Read more...

 
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More About The Empire of Death by Paul Koudounaris
 
 
 
Overview
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.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780500251782
  • ISBN-10: 0500251789
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson
  • Publish Date: October 2011
  • Page Count: 224
  • Dimensions: 12.2 x 9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Social Science > Anthropology - Cultural & Social

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2012-01-30
  • Reviewer: Staff

"Morbid elegance is puzzling to modern eyes," declares Koudounaris as he commences this global journey celebrating the macabre through a socio-cultural history of charnel houses and ossuaries. "Little by little, the dead cease to exist," professed French sociologist Jean Baudrillard; we no longer ritualize beyond immediate requirements, as death—and the body itself—according to Koudounaris are now decidedly "abject." Koudounaris takes the reader to a time when the skull was not only "an object of veneration," but a sobering reminder of mortality and a symbol of the belief that death brings eternal life. Ancient crypts were "imbued with the idea of salvation" and through Koudounaris' awesome photographs, readers are given "an opportunity to affirm life by embracing death." Early 17th century Italian tombs became increasingly elaborate as "macabre décor" proved oddly lucrative, and the tale of the 19th century exhumation of the Cimetière des Innocents to form the famed Paris catacombs, or "l'Empire de la Morte," is particularly fascinating. Highlighting the importance of the conservation and restoration of such relics, Koudounaris' passion for and knowledge of the topic is undeniable, alluding to a historical "epidemic lack of concern" that must be rectified if these mesmerizing masterpieces are to retain their "spiritual and artistic value." His scholarly curiosity has constructed a dark yet dazzling dialogue that deserves to be heard by many—"the dead were not expected to be mute." Photos and illus. (Oct.)

 
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