The Empire of Death

A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses


A remarkable and richly illustrated volume detailing the manifold ways in which human bones have been displayed around the world. Glorious, gruesome and unique


ISBN: 9780500251782 Categories: ,

Paul Koudounaris


In this tour de force of original cultural history, Paul Koudounaris takes the reader on an unprecedented international tour of macabre and devotional architectural masterpieces in nearly 20 countries. This book brings together the world’s most important charnel sites, ranging from the crypts of the Capuchin monasteries in Italy and the skull-encrusted columns of the ossuary in √Čvora in Portugal, to the strange tomb of a wealthy 1960s Peruvian nobleman, decorated with the exhumed skeletons of his Spanish ancestors.

Illustrated with specially taken photographs of sites rarely open to the public and forgotten archive images of others long destroyed, this mesmerising, shocking and deeply moving book is an essential memento mori for our modern age.

Additional information

Weight 1539 g
Dimensions 23.1 x 31.2 cm
Publisher name Thames and Hudson Ltd
Publication date 1 October 2011
Number of pages 224
Format Hardback
Dimensions 23.1 x 31.2 cm
Weight 1539 g


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Paul Koudounaris has a doctorate in Art History from the University of California and has written widely on European ossuaries and charnel houses for both academic and popular journals.