New Book of Photographs Makes Death Less Creepy

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In The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses, Dr. Paul Koudounaris gives us an intimate understanding of the sites where bones of dead people are placed together en masse. What may seem like a gory theme for a book and photo series is actually a beautiful treatment of the culturally touchy subject of death. Armed with a PhD in Art History from UCLA, Dr. Paul K begins his odyssey with a "A Dialogue with Death," moving into the spiritual and ethnic significance of places holding multiple human remains. “These sites were intended as statements of hope and beauty,” he writes, “and it was important to me that I find a means through photographs and the writing of history to convey that: these sites represent death only in so far as death itself affirms life.”

The author and artist signs copies of his beautifully bound publication at La Luz de Jesus in Los Angeles, which also exhibits a selection of photographs from the 200-plus full-color illustrations in The Empire of Death.

Click through below for more stunning images from the book.

Ossuary Chapel of Solferino (San Pietro in Vincoli; Solferino, Italy)

Skeleton of St. Pancratius at the Church of St. Nikolaus (Wil, Switzerland)

Chapel of Skulls (Kaplica Czaszek; Czermna, Poland)

Tomb of Enrique Torres Belon at the Church of Santiago Apostol (Lampa, Peru)

Mummified monk in the crypt of the Monastery of Santa Maria della Concezione (Rome, Italy)

Mummified infant in the crypt of the Monastery of Santa Maria della Pace (Palermo, Sicily, Italy)

Infant skull at Fiesta de las Natitas (La Paz, Bolivia)

St. Maximus at the Basilica of Waldsassen (Waldsassen, Germany)

Bavarian painted skulls in the Ossuary of the Church of Saints Johnannes der Täufer and Johnannes der Evangelist (Dingolfing, Germany)

Pestkreuz in Beinhaus Leuk, Ossuary of the Church of St. Stephan (Leuk, Switzerland)