Danish Churches without Dances of Death


Jungshoved 1962.
Jungshoved 1962

Quote from "De Danske Kirker" (by Erik Horskjær, 1968, my translation):

"[…] and on the arches and on the Northern wall of the choir some funny, very naive and summary frescoes from the late Gothic era was brought to light in 1941. […] On the west wall of the west extension there is a badly preserved "dance of death"."

This quote is typical: Much of the literature about churches and frescoes ignore Jungshoved or describe it very briefly. The deanery of Stege-Vordinborg doesn't respond to e-mails. Something is definitely wrong.

Foto by Hideko Bondesen - http://www.nordenskirker.dk/

An article in Nationalmuseets Arbejdsmark (= "the work field of the National Museum") from 1971, solves the mystery: The dance of death in Jungshoved is not dance of death, but rather a dance between young, noble people, where the Devil is participating (the picture to the left is from 1962 - before the restoration and is copied from the article).

Foto by Hideko Bondesen - http://www.nordenskirker.dk/

The more recent photo to the right backs this up: The dancer is the Devil himself.

In the book "Svøbt i Mår" (=wrapped in marten) Lise Præstgaard Andersen writes that the devil hasn't got horns but is wearing a crown or a mask. The painting thus illustrates old ballads where an unknown suitor appears, seduces the maid by giving her a golden crown, takes her away from her family and then turns out to be the Devil or some other unpleasant monster from the local folklore.

In the left part of the dance we get a glimpse of a window. This window is newer than the painting and a devil was destroyed to make room for the window. The remains of the devil are covered with whitewash.

Externtal Link


Incredibly, this charming dance frieze pops up now and then in literature about dances of death. Let's discuss it - dance friezes are just as rare as dances of death.

The dance frieze in Ørslev
The dance frieze in Ørslev.

In the church of Ørslev in south-western Zealand there's a rather little (30 x 120 cm) frieze. Compared to dances of death there's a number of differences:

The photo was taken by Groenling on Flickr, who has plenty of great pictures: dances of death.