Berlin's Dance of Death

This is the text from Berlin's dance of death. The fresco is in a bad condition and several letters are missing. The letters in parentheses are guesswork. As a matter of fact we're only guessing that the last verse is about mother and child.

Notice the unique structure: the first 14 dancers represent the ecclesiastical society - from the lowly sacristan to the pope. Then follows a crucifixion scene and to right we have 14 secular people from the emperor to the tender infant. This means that the most powerful ecclesiastical and lay people are in the middle of the dance - close to the Lord.

This great number of clerics (including the physician) means that there's a disproportionate large number of look-alike priest and monks with Death repeating himself. Therefore the text may easily become somewhat boring. If this happens, skip to Jesus and continue from there.

Death and Medical Power Notice that Death is polite and addresses people (except for the peasant) in the plural: gi, jw, jwer (like Middle English ȝe, eow, eower(1) and Medieval English ye, yow, youre), whereas the humans (except for the fool) use the more familiar form towards Death and God and say du, dy, dyner (like in medieval English thou, thee and thine). This peculiarity is not reflected in my translation.

The text is available in the book "Der Berliner Totentanz zu St. Marien" by Peter Walther published by Lukas Verlag. The book contains lots of pictures and a translation into High German.

The pictures are taken from the book Der Todtentanz in der Marien-Kirche zu Berlin by Theodor Prüfer, 1883. The book has kindly been scanned by Dr. Jozef (Jos) Welie, author of the book Death and Medical Power: An Ethical Analysis of Dutch Euthanasia Practice.

Prologue
Sacristan
Curate
Official
Augustin friar
Preacher
Parish priest
Carthusian
Physician
Monk
Canon
Abbot
Bishop
Cardinal
Pope
------------------------
Jesus on the cross
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Emperor
Empress
King
Duke
Knight
Mayor
Usurer
Nobleman
Merchant
Craftsman
Peasant
Landlady
Cook / Fool
Mother and child

The dance of death in Berlin, Part 1The dance of death in Berlin, Part 2The dance of death in Berlin, Part 3The dance of death in Berlin, Part 4The dance of death in Berlin, Part 5The dance of death in Berlin, Part 6The dance of death in Berlin, Part 7The dance of death in Berlin, Part 8
Click to see pictures and text.

Footnotes: (1)

If you're interested in Middle English, you might take a look at the dance of death in London.

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