Bejeweled and Bedazzled: Skeletons of Christian Martyrs

Written by - Maria Camila Arbelaez

Skeletons of Christian bodies were martyred during Roman times and then discovered and made relics by members of the the Catholic Church throughout Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. This elevation of the skeletons represents an enduring testament to the immortality and auspiciousness attributed to Christians that were captured and killed by the Roman Empire. The so called “catacomb saints" were found in Italy’s catacombs, where thousands of Christian and Jewish bodies were left during times of religious intolerance. A tradition was thus created in which the skeletons were cared for and intricately decorated with the finest jewels and royal garb of the time. The Vatican would determine whether a skeleton was fit to be a relic, and then a nun or monk would decorate it for two to three years.