Alternative MethodsConventional Methods


March 29

Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures and Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs

Rudy Bryant
Core Spirit member since Dec 24, 2020
Reading time 2 min.

It’s partly a question of taste. When Anna Eliza Bray was collecting materials for The Mountains and Lakes of Switzerland (1841) she was proudly shown the ornamented skeleton of St Alexander at Freiburg. ‘Never before had we witnessed any sight so disgusting,’ she recalled. ‘I involuntarily started in horror.’ Any idea of venerating human remains was bad enough for a properly brought-up Anglican, but the mouldering bones bedecked with jewels and embroidered with gold proved viscerally repulsive.

This must be a common reaction to the photographs in a new book, Heavenly Bodies. Skeletons from Roman catacombs, mistaken for the remains of martyrs, were imported by the dozen for churches in Switzerland, Bavaria and Austria, mostly in the 17th and 18th centuries.

They were articulated in suitable poses (like squirrels in a Victorian taxidermy tableau), clad in gems and displayed in glazed niches for popular devotion. At first they seem deliberately grotesque, a memento mori. But the author, Paul Koudounaris, insists that on the contrary, the intention was to give them the highest dignity by ornamenting them with gems mentioned in the Book of Revelation’s description of the heavenly Jerusalem.

If there’s a problem, it’s a cultural (Germanic) thing. Think of Gunther von Hagens and his exhibitions of anatomised bodies. With the catacomb saints, eyes are the most troublesome parts. Hollow orbits are bad enough, but blue gem eyes are worse, reminding us of the ventriloquist’s dummy. Shakespeare’s feelings (‘Those are pearls that were his eyes’) seem closer to the relic-collectors’ than to our own. At Roggenburg in Bavaria the four saints on display have papier-mâché masks, but a hole where a nose should be still makes St Severina behind her veil look like Michael Jackson.

In the centuries after the discovery of the Coemeterium Jordanorum on the via Salaria, Rome, in 1578, such skeletons were carted over the Alps to be adorned by craftswomen such as Potentiana Hammerl, a nun from Freising (where Pope Benedict XVI more recently lived). She set the skull, ribcage and limbs of St Albert with red and blue gems and bound his bones with pearls.

One Swiss Guard at the Vatican, Capt Johann Pfyffer, dispatched 25 catacomb saints to his native land in the 17th century. These had not been sold (that would have been the mortal sin of simony), but transport did not come cheap, even if some pious innkeepers en route assigned the skeletons rooms of their own free of charge. Since the names of the dead seldom survived in the catacomb niches, they were given generic new names: Felix (Happy), Constantius (Constant) or even Incognitus (Unknown).

Martyrs’ relics were used as a sort of conduit for prayers, who asked their intercession for those still on earth. The theory seemed reasonable to believers such as St Jerome, who wrote that such ‘venerable bones are held to be the altar of Christ’. He opposed the scoffing second-century Celsus, who declared, ‘Corpses should be disposed of like dung, for they are dung.’ Today our sensibility is more likely to be that of Celsus. Corpses, while deserving of respect, fall definitely in the category of unclean things.

So in Porrentruy, Switzerland, the catacomb-saint Faustine now lies in a lumber room. Yet in the village of Rottenbuch, Bavaria, whose citizens wept in 1803 as the secular magistrate auctioned off their beloved saints Primus and Felicianus, good fortune and fund­raising brought them back in 1977 to be honoured again in all their ghastly glory.

Christopher Howse/The Telegraph

Comments

Leave your questions here

To write a comment you must
or
Services
Category filter
Concern filter
Type filter
Sort
 

All categories

Spiritual Healing
$222 USD
Healing from Trauma at a Quantum Soul Level

Are you burnt out from clinical therapy practices that require years of treatment with few results? Are you ready to release and transmute your trauma once and…

LunaRio Silver Deer
Spiritual Healing
$10 USD
I will do spiritual transformation for you

I will do spiritual transformation. Life occurs as a series of cycles in a single human lifetime. Cycles exist in almost a spiral pattern. There is a flow and …

Wisdom Realms
Career Coaching
$499 USD
Reset 1-0n1 Coaching and Mentoring Programme

Are you returning to work after a career break, or are you looking for a new job or career change?

This programme is for you.

I’ve developed the RESET coachi…

Carla Martins
Life Coaching
$399 USD
1-on-1 Coaching

The journey started with our discovery call, and You decided: ” I’m ready! Let’s do this!”.

We will engage in 1-on-1 coaching sessions for 90 minutes. In this…

Carla Martins
Emotional Stress Release
$800 USD
Retreat( India): Connect With Your Inner Wisdom 1st to 4th Sept

Join us for an immersive experience anchored amidst the beauty and tranquillity of Kasar Devi, Almora, India

1st Sept’22 ( Thursday) - 4th Sept 2022 ( Sunday …

Aikyam
Psychic Reading
$80 USD
I will do oracle and tarot card readings

I will do oracle & tarot card reading in any area of your life. You will get answer from the Angelic, Elemental, Faerie or Galactic realms. I will share wi…

Wisdom Realms
Natal Astrology
$15 USD
15 min reading of SOUL structure

[SOUL STRUCTURE]Each soul has own structure,and knowing it means to have unlimited access to inner energy. This readings are telling about your talents and str…

Ksenia Jdanova
Wellness Coaching
$10 USD
Ask a Question?

Supportive reflection of a current question that you would like clarity around. Using the SMART method to seek quidance in stepping onto your path of potential…

Beverly Lynn
Reiki
$150 USD
Reiki Services (distant healing session)

In this hour long distant healing session I will use long distance Reiki, crystals and essential oils to balance your Chakras. Balancing your Chakras allows en…

Erin Kirby
Tarot Reading
$10 USD
Intuitive Tarot Reading

Affordable Tarot reading to offer guidance on any given concern.

Elphie Shoppe
Telepsychology
$10 USD
Talk Therapy Sessions

Hello there: These times are dread. Do you need to talk with a safe professional about a troubling personal challenge? I am a professional listener and will li…

Eulalee Thompson
Tarot Reading
$10 USD
Tarot Reading

I offer tarot readings with a 100% accuracy rate. The tarot is meant to give you advice, to point you in the right direction or to provide you with clarity. Bu…

Zara Kalil
Angel Healing
$10 USD
Mental Health Advice & Tips

I can help you with past issues and give advice and tips on how to better your life. I can see through my third eye and receive messageson what you need to do …

Beings Of Light
Life Coaching
$10 USD
Discovery call

Are you interested in supporting your health with safe and effective holistic medicine? Not sure if you should switch diets, work with a health coach or explor…

Suzana Da Costa
Wellness Coaching
$50 USD
Mental Health and Holistic Lifestyle Coaching

Hi there! I’m Doug and I offer 1 on 1 Holistic Lifestyle and Mental Health Coaching sessions. Navtigating life with mental health issues of any sevarity is a h…

Doug Peterson
Wellness Coaching
$10 USD
Mental Health and Holistic Lifestyle Coaching Consultation

Hi there! I’m Doug and I offer 1 on 1 Holistic Lifestyle and Mental Health Coaching sessions. Navtigating life with mental health issues of any sevarity is a h…

Doug Peterson
Family Psychology
$10 USD
Psychic Reading

Expert in Love Relationship, Tarot Psychic Reading
I can give you more powerful insight of every part of your life. With the help of Crystal ball my Psychic re…

Aamir Bilal
Career Coaching
$195 USD
Holistic Lifestyle & Nutrition Coaching

ARE YOU TIRED? STRESSED OUT? STRUGGLING WITH YOUR WEIGHT? UNDER SLEPT?
LOST YOUR ZEST FOR LIFE?

If this sounds like you, then you don’t need a new diet… you n…

David Giddings
Bach flower therapy
$120 USD
Bach Flower Essence Consultation

Exploration of where you’re feeling stuck or limited in life and recommendations of Bach Flower Essences to help loosen and dissolve old patterns.

Suzana Da Costa
Cognitive-behavioral therapy
$100 USD
Subliminal therapy

In this service we will use Subliminal therapy and Sound healing as alternative to tradition cognitive behavioral therapy.

We are born with our thoughts. Do n…

Ahmed Amin Youssef
Spiritual Healing
$10 USD
Intro 2 Alignment Healing Chant

Namaste.

That is my greeting to the spirit within you. Join me for a welcome introduction session to celebrate my arrival at Core Spirit!

For 15 minutes I wi…

Ti3rc3 Fire
Mediumism
$55 USD
Psychic Medium Readings

READINGS
Currently, all readings will be offered virtually.
Appointments are available on Tuesday and Thursday mornings between 9am-1pm (UK Time Zone).
When we…

Jan Morgan
Oracle Cards Reading
$25 USD
Psychic Reading 15 Minutes

Well-versed in the main 5 clairs, I will Intuitively answer your questions for 15 minutes.

Jyll Hoyrup
Emotional Stress Release
$150 USD
Creatrix® Breakthrough

This is a revolutionary process, SPECIALLY designed for women. You will be able to clear your most depeest BLOCKS and limiting beliefs. 

This is the only too…

Tamar Viva

Related Articles