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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Sumptuous Homage to the Beloved Dead -or- Don't Fear the Reaper, October 11, 2011
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This review is from: The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses (Hardcover)
This is a remarkable book. It is beautifully produced and manages to span the realms of the coffee table grimoire and the insightful scholarly work. Paul Koudounaris speaks authoritatively and succinctly, revealing a world of life and hope that has been effectively extinguished in modern society. There is an unsettling message that resonates through every page; by marginalizing and concealing our beloved dead, we take some of the vivacity from our own lives. Plus, you get a built-in ribbon bookmark.

The Empire of Death will likely change the way you think about death, even if you had a relatively amicable relationship before.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely beautiful photography, November 14, 2011
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This review is from: The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses (Hardcover)
I am so happy that I ordered this book. It is full of stunning photography and the binding is very elegant. This was a perfect addition to my collection of books about Ossuaries. Typically these kinds of books are either coffee-table books burdened by mediocre writing and poor scholarship, or textbooks with wonderful historical perspective but few images. The text by Koudounaris entirely worth reading, though the format sacrifices ease of reading for visual appeal. Some of the sites in this book are rarely photographed or written about, so it is really a wonderful resource in addition to a beautiful book for display. It also includes map locations and very clear cross referencing in the appendices. To be honest, the photographs are so beautiful that it would be worth buying for those alone.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Remains, November 6, 2011
By 
Michelle L. Deziel (Pasadena, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses (Hardcover)
The Empire of Death is a brilliant book that is sure to captivate all who delve into it. In this beautiful hardcover, Dr. Koudounaris takes readers on a fascinating journey across continents and through history to extraordinary places where the living and the dead coexist. Here, the religious establishment's long forgotten practice of decorating and creating works of art with human remains is discussed and illustrated in thoughtful and astonishing detail. Not only does Dr. Koudounaris elegantly describe the rich and unusual cultural history of ossuaries and charnel houses, he grants his readers unprecedented access to both well known and private sites through nearly 300 stunning photographs. The images alone are worth the price of the book!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AMAZING BOOK!, January 2, 2012
This review is from: The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses (Hardcover)
I got this for Christmas from somebody who obviously knows me very, very well! I couldn't believe how much I've enjoyed looking through it. The photography of ossuaries, crypts, and catacombs would be amazing on its own but the author, Paul Koudounaris's knowledge on it all makes it so, so a must-read. What's really great about it is that it is not a horror book. I got a calendar from my mom with all these old rundown manor houses and cemeteries that looks like something a "Twilight" fan might put on their gloomy-headed wall. This is the opposite. Part art photos of ancient skulls and bones and part history lesson. I love my gift!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For Those Who Are Not Brave Enough To Enter The Other Side Of The Veil, October 26, 2011
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This review is from: The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses (Hardcover)
Littered around Europe are so called Ossuaries where bones are
kept either in special niches or arranged in convivial macabre
baroque art. This book is a compendium of such shrines and a
homage to death itself.

Paul Koudounaris has documented well and little known Charnel
Houses, not to mention he presented it with flair and supplemented
with several pictures.

Included in this handsome hardbound book are the famous Capuchin
Church in Palermo,Scwarzenberg Chapel, Waldsassen and Church of
Saint Francis in Portugal.

This is highly recommended for those who are Connosieurs of the
Strange and those who are not brave enough to cross the threshold
of the said chapels and churches. Dr. Koudounaris has done an
excellent job and give us a free tour of the Realm of the Dead.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Macabre Tour Guide, November 21, 2011
This review is from: The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses (Hardcover)
This is a book that teaches you that death is not only a part of life, but of art as well. It's laden with stunning photography and luxurious fonts. The binding is exquisite as well. It's also a very comprehensive guide of charnel houses and ossuaries around the world- famous, sacred or isolated- with remarkable photographs to document this rather macabre journey. The Empire of Death is the ideal coffee table book for the strange and the aesthete alike.

The wonderful presentation and fascinating content make The Empire of Death a perfect gift for the upcoming holidays.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ecce Homo, Ecce Mors, June 23, 2014
By 
Corey Lidster (Belleville, Ontario) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses (Hardcover)
As has been testified elsewhere, Paul Koudanaris' exploration of the historical anachronism known as the 'Ossuary' is, firstly, a work of exceptional beauty. His photographs of these places that are entirely morbid to many Western eyes, evincing second & third hand impressions of the Black Death & two World Wars (both times the Horseman of War is followed closely by Death, Plague and famine: the scarlet fever showing no mercy to the already ravaged nations who fought in the Great War: the terrifying industrialized killing machines employed by the Nazi's to make quick pitiless work of genocide), have far more significance than mere shock. His anthropological investigation into the origins of the Ossuary suggest a deep cultural disconnect that only a small and curious portion of the Western World have managed to plug themselves into. Until the 19th & 20th centuries, the average person had a familiarity with death that was unavoidable. The skull was seen as a symbol of one's resignation to his own mortality. From the late Gothic to the Renaissance to the Baroque, the 'Vanitas' theme of the living man studying the dead to remind himself of life's transience is a constant. The Ossuary can be seen as an architectural and sculptural progression of the Vanitas theme, as well as a solution to a very real problem of city-planning. As plagues and battles raged, and cities continued to grow through the late medieval age, places to bury the dead became harder to find. Graveyards were stacking graves two - three coffins deep. As the distances one was forced to travel in order to bury the dead became untenable, the catacombs were opened and expanded, and the Ossuary was born. The decorative and artistic qualities came from a need for reverance, far from the 'blasphemous' intent that modern eyes think they perceive. The skull is no longer a symbol of mortality, those eyeless sockets windows into the world beyond. Koudanaris is skilled as both a photographer and writer, and the book is copiously illustrated with full color photos of magnificent specimens like St. Pancratius, his bones carefully assembled in his gleaming suit of bespoke armor of silver and gold. Thames and Hudson are repected publishers, and the design and production of this book explains why this is so. A thick black cover with gilt-embossed titles and borders, dual-paper stock, one optimal for text, the other high-quality semi-gloss, the primary stock, perfect for hi-res photo reproductions. A must buy for anyone with a fascination for mans relationship with his mortality.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something Different!, December 17, 2012
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This review is from: The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses (Hardcover)
Very interesting book with tons of great photographs. I you tend to enjoy the darker side of life this is a cool book. Mine is out on the coffee table!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great coffee table book, September 14, 2012
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This review is from: The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses (Hardcover)
I was vvery pleased when this book arrived. The pictures are spectacular. The text is informative and Iespecially liked the map which showed the sites in which countries of the world.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Better than I hoped!, June 24, 2014
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This review is from: The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses (Hardcover)
I wanted a book that would give historical and interesting facts on places of death and our treatment of the dead. That is just what was delivered and more. The photos are large, high quality and provoked a range of emotions from me including shock, dread, awe, curiosity, and the desire to learn more. I agree with another reviewer that, despite its "coffee table" appearance, the information in this book is very well researched. Also, the the material is in-depth without being academic or dense and seems to build on itself to form a chronology of the history/facts covered.

Two, perhaps, unexpected consequences of my reading this:

1. My acceptance of death as a normal part of being human has already increased as a result of what I have read and I am definitely more open to its discussion.

2. I recognize a need for society to demystify death and break down the taboos so as to better prepare ourselves, thus living more deliberately.
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The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses
The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses by Paul Koudounaris (Hardcover - October 24, 2011)
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