Basel: The Bishop

The Bishop
Basel's dance of death, The bishop

Todt zum Bischoff:
EVwer Würde hat sich verkehrt,
   Herr Bischoff weiß vnd wolgelehrt:
Ich wil euch in den Reyen ziehen,
   Ihr mögen dem Todt nicht entfliehen.

Death to The Bishop
Your worthiness has been distorted,
Mr. Bishop, wise and well learned;
I will pull you into the dance.
You cannot flee from Death.

Der Bischoff:
ICh bin gar hoch geachtet worden,
   Dieweil ich lebt in Bischoffs Orden:
Nun ziehen mich die Vngeschaffnen
   An jhren Tantz, alß einen Affen.

The Bishop.
I have been very highly esteemed
while I lived, in my bishop's office.
Now the freaks are pulling me
to their dance like a monkey.
Kleinbasel, Archbishop.
Notice similarity to the bishop in Großbasel (top of page).
Büchel, Archbishop
Kleinbasel, Bishop.
(in Basel replaced by a duchess)
Büchel, Bishop

On this position in the dance there originally used to be an archbishop, but after a restoration the archbishop was replaced by an ordinary bishop, after which the old bishop was replaced by a duchess.

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. See this comparison of the two dances.

If you compare the pictures of archbishop and bishop from Kleinbasel (left and right), one can see that Basel's bishop (above) looks more like the old archbishop — and that the change of the picture has mostly consisted of replacing the cross with a bishop's crosier.

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

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

Bishop, your wisdom and your pride
Have turned your Reverence aside,
There where equality's the law
Death's hand is ready you to draw.

The world admired and called me great
Because I held a Bishop's state;
Now shapeless beings bear me off
To where like apes they dance and scoff.

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

Your dignity away has turn'd,
Lord bishop, wise and well learn'd!
I will draw you in to this row,
And you will not escape your foe.

I have been highly esteemed,
Was well in bishop's order deem'd;
Now draw me the unshap'd
To their dance like an ape.


Various Artists

Merian (1621)
Merian 1621: Bishop
Chovin (1744)
Chovin 1744: Bishop
Büchel (1768)
Büchel 1768: Archbishop
Büchel (1773)
Büchel 1773: Bishop
Fragment (1805)
Fragment 1805: Bishop
Feyerabend (1806)
Feyerabend 1806: Bishop
Hess (1841)
Hess 1841: Bishop
Beck (1852)
Beck 1852: Bishop
Stuckert (1858)
Stuckert 1858: Bishop