The Empire of Death : A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses, Hardback

The Empire of Death : A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses Hardback

5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


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 is the first book to bring 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 Evora in Portugal, to the strange tomb of a 1960s wealthy 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.


  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 224 pages, 421 illustrations, 290 in colour
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Religious buildings
  • ISBN: 9780500251782



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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

This book is a stunningly gorgeous homage to the great ossuaries of Europe. Each page is covered in beautiful photographs and well-researched, passionate histories of charnel houses, memento mori, and the western world's changing attitudes towards death and what lies beyond it. Some readers may shy away from this book as macabre, but I'm certain that many others will embrace it, and be happy they did.

Review by

Beautifully laid out book with elegant text and photographs. More substantial than a coffee table book, closer to a lengthy National Geographic article. The photographs alone make it worth picking up, and the text offers useful and interesting information.

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