Jesus on the cross

(Gi) cristene lude arme unde rike
junge unde olde algelike
(vor) jw e.......ik ghestorven byn
gy muthen alle (ok des dodes syn)
(vor) ju mut ik draghen van scharpen darne enen krantz
kamet al met my an den dodendantz
(ok) gy geystliken cristen grot vnde klene
set wu ik vor jw leth den bittren doet
gy muten alle steruen dat is not
an den dodendantz (jw) beredet
gy muthen ok dantzen (mede)

You Christian people, poor and rich,
young and old likewise
For you............have I died.
You too must all become Death's.
For you I must wear a wreath of sharp thorns
Come all with me to the dance of death,
also you clerical Christians, great and small
.............all together
See, how I - for you - suffer the bitter death.
You must all die; that is unavoidable.
For the dance of death prepare your self.
You must also dance along.

Crucifixion in Berlin with eight lines of text.
Crucifixion in Berlin

Jesus and the figures surrounding him are smaller than the rest of the dance of death. It has been suggested that the crucifixion could have been painted before the rest of the dance of death - but this was disproved in 1955, when it was shown that the same plaster was used in the crucifixion scene as in the rest of the fresco.

A better explanation is that this scene is smaller because it's painted on a pillar and therefore protrudes towards the audience. By reducing the closer scene, the overall proportions are retained.

Crucifixion from Dodendantz.
Crucifixion from Dodendantz

The text is a story in itself. Lübke makes the point that Jesus only has eight lines as opposed to the dancing couples, who all have twelve lines. Prüfer reproduces the letters in his lithograph (top of this page). This lithograph (and the photo to the left) clearly shows that there are indeed only eight lines of text - and with great gaps. Nevertheless, Seelmann — without any explanation — arranges the text into twelve lines, and all later scholars follow Seelmann. Apparently the eight lines must be broken in order to make twelve.

It's probably just a coincidence, but there's also a crucifixion scene in the middle of Dodendantz (see picture to the right). This might be another example of the close relationship between Berlin's dance of death and Dodendantz. There was also a crucified Jesus in the middle of the dance in Kleinbasel and in Mors de la Pomme. The dance in Bern had a crucifixion scene in the beginning.