The Rotting Body of René de Chalon (Bar-Le-Duc, Lorraine, France)

Saint-Étienne church, in the city of Bar-le-Duc, is home to a statue of a rotting corpse. Visible musculature and skin hang in flaps over the hollow carcass. The exposed skull looks toward a raised left hand, which once held the dried heart of René de Chalon, the 16th-century prince the statue depicts. (The heart is believed to have gone missing sometime around the French Revolution.)

The life-size sculpture by Ligier Richier is part of the “transi” Renaissance art form—stone sculptures of rotting bodies that served as a reminder of temporary flesh and eternal afterlife.

The postmortem statue of René de Chalon once held the man’s own dried heart.

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