Bacteriochlorophyll (BChl) c was extracted from Chloroflexus aurantiacus and purified by reverse-phase high-pressure liquid chromatography. This pigment consists of a complex mixture of homologues, the major component of which is 4-ethyl-5-methylbacteriochlorophyll c stearyl ester. Unlike previously characterized BChls c, the pigment from C. aurantiacus is a racemic mixture of diastereoisomers with different configurations at the 2a chiral center. Diluting a concentrated methylene chloride solution of BChl c with hexane produces an oligomer with absorption maxima at 740-742 and at 460-462 nm. Both the absorption spectrum and the fluorescence emission spectrum (maximum at 750 nm) of this oligomer closely match those of BChl c in chlorosomes. Further support for this model comes from the ability of alcohols, which disrupt BChl c oligomers by ligating the central Mg atom, to convert BChl c in chlorosomes to a monomeric form when added in low concentrations. The lifetime of fluorescence from the 740 nm absorbing BChl c oligomer is about 80 ps. Although exciton quenching might be unusually fast in the in vitro BChl c oligomer because of its large size and/or the presence of minor impurities, this result suggests that energy transfer from the BChl c antenna in chlorosomes must be very fast if it is to be efficient.