The Catacomb Saints: How many clickbait titles can you come up with?

From Wikipedia:

Catacomb saints are ancient Roman corpses that were exhumed from the catacombs of Rome, given fictitious names and sent abroad as relics of saints from the 16th century to the 19th century. They were typically lavishly decorated with gold and precious stones.

There’s no question the subject is of some interest to scholars and historians – I’ve seen a few of these in my peregrinations around the world.


“Though selling the relics would have been considered simony, enterprising church officials still managed to raise funds while countering the iconoclasm by charging for transportation, decoration, induction and blessing.”

And keeping in mind that fundraising was foremost among church leaders then as now, it’s not surprising that so much effort was put into the preservation and illumination of these relics. Some of the bodies may have been of early Christian martyrs, but none were of any particular religious significance. Dressing them up and giving them the name of a saint, however, was the 16th-century equivalent of The National Enquirer or Buzzfeed.

These relics have been around for a long time, but when the Internet discovers something, it’s often presented as a “stunning new find” or some other silliness – anything to get eyeballs on ads, as you can see below.

Let’s look at the kinds of headlines one sees with a simple search for “Rome jeweled skeletons:”

  • These Skeletons Were Found In Roman Catacombs And You’ll Never Believe What They’re Wearing
  • Unbelievable Skeletons Unearthed From the Catacombs Of Rome
  • Meet the Fantastically Bejeweled Skeletons of Catholicism’s Forgotten Martyrs
  • Beauty from the crypt: Europe’s jeweled skeletons
  • 19 Bejeweled Skeletons That’ll Blow Your Mind
  • Incredible skeletal remains of Catholic saints still dripping in gems and jewellery discovered by ‘Indiana Bones’ explorer
  • Beauty Beyond the Grave: The Story Behind Europe’s Bejeweled Skeletons
  • Secrets of the Catholic Church: Unbelievable Jeweled Skeletons Discovered in the Catacombs of Rome
  • The ghastly glory of Europe’s jewel-encrusted relics
  • The Catacomb Saints – So-Called Saint Skeletons Dressed in Jewel-Encrusted Gold and Silver
  • Skeletons Unearthed From The Catacombs Of Rome Have Jeweled Beards
  • Bones with Bling: The Amazing Jewelled Skeletons of Europe

As mentioned above, many of the referenced articles try to make it appear as though these relics were just recently discovered.

Click through for a collection of these images.

PS: if you do this, screw you. (Text like this often appears when you copy and paste from a website):

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This is the 21st century equivalent of blinking text. It’s annoying, no soul in their right mind would ever incorporate it into a cross-post, and it’s a waste of everyone’s time.

The Old Wolf has spoken.