Lübeck's Dance of Death

The Nun

The nun appears indirectly on the painting in St. Mary's Church where the maiden says to Death: »Had I become a nun then I would gladly step into your order«.

The nun

De Klōsternonne

Eia, help Maria, mi is ovel to mode!
Schal ik alrede sterven, dat do ik node.
Ik hadde gehopet noch mźr to leren,
Wo ik scholde denen Gode minem heren,
Dem ik mine sele hebbe vortruwet gans,
Up dat ik mochte entvangen der junkvrowen kranz(1)
In dem ewigen rike na dessem leven,
Den mi Got so mildichliken wil geven.
Min vlźsch is vaken worden bekoret,
Dārmede mine innicheit wart vorstoret,
De werlt unde ōk des vianden list dārbi,
Dārvan ik alle tīt bekoret si.
Sus hebbe ik gehat der temptacien gans vele,
Up dat ik Gode mochte offeren eine reine sele.
Men mit wertliken dingen hebbe ik mi vele beweret,
Wente mīn orde dat so nicht heft geleret.
Noch vruchte ik dārumme to liden pine grōt;
O Jesus, wes mi gnedich dorch dinen dōt!
Maria, de du under dem cruce werest bedrovet went in den dōt,
Help mi nu in desser miner lesten nōt,
Dat ik jo bi di ewich mote bliven,
Unde dat mi Got late in dat bōk des ewigen levendes schriven.

Death with spade

De doet

Klōsternonneken, vorvere di nicht to sere,
Desses danzes hefstu grote ere,
Wente de dār sik Gode heft gegeven
Unde de dār wil voren ein geistlīk leven,
De schal sik gans van der werlde keren
Unde bi tiden sterven leren,
Wente waket, sprak unse here, unde weset bereit
Unde keret ju van der werlde, dede is vul valscheit,
Wente gi wetten nicht de stunde noch den dach,
Dat Cristus juwe sele van ju nemen mach.(2)
Hīrumme hefstu jennigen godesdźnst gedān,
Dāvor schaltu nu grōt lōn entvān.
Hefstu di ōk bekummert mit wertliken idelen dingen,
Dat wil di in grote pine bringen.
Sus hefstu gedān jegen de regulen unde des ordens gedicht,
Wente to de boden unde raden Godes hefstu di vorplicht.
Hefstu it geholden, God wilt nu belonen
Unde wil di barmhertichliken kronen
Mit der kronen der ewigen salicheit,
De allem godesdeneren gnedichliken is bereit.
Desse heft Cristus vorworven mit sinen dode unde hilgen wunden(3)
Alle den, de in sinem dźnste willichliken werden gevunden.

Nun Death to the nun Sunte Birgitten Openbaringe Click the small pictures to see the original pages.

The woodcut of the nun wasn't only used in the dances of death. The picture to the right is from another book by the Mohnkopf printery, Sunte Birgitten Openbaringe ("Revelations of Saint Birgitta"), 1496. The woodcut is supposed to portray "Sunte Katharina van watzsteyn" — i.e. Saint Catherine of Vadstena, the daughter of Birgitta.

At the bottom of the frame one can see the Mohnkopf printery's two characteristic escutcheons: three poppy fruits and a capital T with a cross.

Footnotes: (1) (2) (3)

Virgin crants...: In the Middle Ages virgins were buried with a chaplet / garland as a symbol of their purity (later on this was only done for young girls). Shakespeare introduced the word into English: "Yet here she is allow'd her virgin crants, her maiden strewments...".
Matthew 24,36: "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." (also Mark 13,32).
See the page about God's wounds.

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