Ol’ Blue Eyes would be celebrating his centennial this year
If you were a relic hunter, you wouldn’t be too surprised to find skeletons in some of the crypts in churches, but you might be surprised to find one that looks like this:
Amazingly, that’s just what’s been happening across Europe as relic hunters and art historians discover that the Catholic Church had a practice of creating jeweled skeletons and sending them to churches across the continent.
In the 1500s, the Catholic church was attempting to replace relics and regain power after the Protestant Reformation, and the skeletons were one tactic they used. The treasures adorning them were meant to symbolize the wealth of the afterlife for those who swore allegiance to Catholicism. One of the most amazing parts of the story is that many of the skeletons were never displayed, but were found in containers inside catacombs, covered in jewels but waiting to be dressed and set out. No one knows why they remained there, untouched, for so long.
Many of the people who became these bizarre relics were later named saints, although they didn’t meet the canonization requirements. Mostly they were of social importance rather than highly spiritual individuals. Some evidence suggests that they were adorned by nuns, as only people who had taken holy orders could handle them. Some laypeople even thought that they were miraculous.
Now, 500 years later, they are being unearthed.