Basel: The Cardinal

The Cardinal
Basel's dance of death, The cardinal

Todt zum Cardinnal:
SPringen auff mit dem rothen Hut,
   Herr Cardinal, der Tantz ist gut:
Wol gesegnet habt jhr die Leyen,
   Ihr müßt auch jetzund an den Reyen.

Death to The cardinal
Jump up with the red hat,
Mr. Cardinal, the dance is good.
You have blessed many lay [people] well.
You must also now to the dance.

Der Cardinal:
ICh ware mit Bäpstlicher Wahl
   Der Heiligen Kirchen Cardinal:
Die Welt hielt mich in grossen Ehren,
   Noch mag ich michs Todts nicht erwehren.

The Cardinal.
I was by papal choice
cardinal in the holy church.
The world honoured me greatly.
Now I cannot ward off Death from me.
Kleinbasel, Patriarch.
Büchel, Patriarch
The original cardinal was placed where the queen was placed later.
Fragment, Cardinal

If you look at this position in the dance of death in Kleinbasel, there's not a cardinal, but a patriarch (see picture to the left). This is because the cardinal in Großbasel has moved one place to the right and has replaced the patriarch, after which the old cardinal was painted over and replaced by a queen.

This change is presumed to have been made by Hans Kluber in 1568 as a part of the efforts to reduce the number of Catholic clerics.

One can see how the postures of the persons are the same in Kleinbasel (to the left) and Großbasel (above), but the "patriarch" now wears the cardinal's cross and hat guard. See this comparison of the two dances.

Death's speech and half of the cardinal's answer are taken almost verbatim from the cardinal in Heidelberg's block book and other versions of the high German dance of death.

At the museum in Basel there's still a fragment of the original mural with the queen. A few layers of paint were removed and the original cardinal appeared (picture to the right).

Büchel, Cardinal
Büchel, Cardinal

Büchel's watercolor from 1773 is slightly different: Death does not have a snake in his belly, Death has a tassel at the end of his hat-string instead of a bell, and the skull on the ground is positioned differently.

English translation from Beck, 1852
Death to the Cardinal.The Cardinal's reply.

Lord Cardinal, 'twill give me pleasure
To see your red hat join the measure;
The laymen whom you oft have blest
Are here, and you must join the rest.

A Cardinal — the Pope's own choice;
The honour did my heart rejoice;
From men I could respect command,
But death's dread power I can't withstand.

Translation from Hess, 1841
Death to the Cardinal.Answer of the Cardinal.

jump up with you red suit,
Sir cardinal the dance is good,
To the layman you did much blessings bestow,
You must now too, come to this row.

I was by election, of the pope,
Cardinal of the holy church;
The world in great honour held me,
Still against death, I c'ant defend me.


Various Artists

Scharffenberg (1576)
Scharffenberg 1576: Cardinal
Merian (1621)
Merian 1621: Cardinal
Merian (1700)
Merian 1700: Cardinal
Chovin (1744)
Chovin 1744: Cardinal
Büchel (1768)
Büchel 1768: Cardinal
Büchel (1768)
Büchel 1768: Patriarch
Büchel (1773)
Büchel 1773: Cardinal
Fragment (1805)
Fragment 1805: Cardinal
Feyerabend (1806)
Feyerabend 1806: Cardinal
Hess (1841)
Hess 1841: Cardinal
Beck (1852)
Beck 1852: Cardinal
Stuckert (1858)
Stuckert 1858: Cardinal