Empire of Death

The Empire of Death

A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses

  1. Paul Koudounaris
  • ISBN 9780500251782
  • 30.50 x 22.50 cm
  • Hardback with tipped on colour plate to front board (without jacket)
  • 224pp
  • With 290 illustrations
  • First published 2011
‘The extraordinary displays of human bones in Europe’s charnel houses may now seem utterly bewildering to us, but 'The Empire of Death' reveals fascinating insights into these misunderstood religious monuments’ – Metro
‘Impressive and readable … an excellent memento mori for our age and a work which is the result of considerable endeavour by the author’ – The Historical Association
‘Death can be so beautiful. That’s what comes over most powerfully in this cultural history of charnel houses ... Many of the buildings are closed to the public, making reading the book feel rather like a date with destiny’ – Time Out London
‘Well written, richly referenced and contains some cracking quotes … the book is imbued with a timeless, classy appeal … If you’re into art, history, culture, eschatology or are just plain weird then you will be impressed by this beautiful book’ – The Royal College of Pathologists Bulletin

Visitors to the Paris catacombs were once greeted with a sign telling them that they were entering THE EMPIRE OF DEATH.

The Empire of Death

Beginning in the early modern period and continuing to the 19th century, elaborately decorated charnels, tombs and chapels were constructed with the focus on human bone.

This riveting book takes the reader on a tour of these macabre masterpieces with specially taken, arresting photographs and a commentary researched from a multitude of sources. It's a momento mori for our age.

Paul Koudounaris has a doctorate in Art History from the University of California, Los Angeles, and has written widely on European ossuaries and charnel houses for both academic and popular journals. He visited and photographed over seventy sites containing human bones in nearly twenty countries in the course of writing this book.