Füssen, The emperor

The emperor
Hiebeler, Emperor

Death to the emperor

    der todt
Herr Ka˙ser kompt In ra˙en rein,
Und tantzt fein nach den Bapst hinein.
Euer reich und gwalt hat auch ein endt,
Drum spert euch nit komt her nur gschwendt.

Mr. Emperor, come into the row
and dance nicely into it after the pope.
Your reign and power has also come to an end,
So don't resist, just come here quickly.

The emperor

    der Ka˙ser
Mein land vnd leüt ich meren thet
Meim feindt auch dapffer widerstrebt,
Allein der Todt ist mächtig mein,
Der sprengt mich auch in ra˙en rein.

    the Emperor.
My country and people I did increase,
I also bravely resisted my enemy,
Only Death is [too] powerful to me,
He makes me too jump into the dance.

Basel: Emperor.
Merian, Emperor

There are faint echoes from the emperor in Basel. Partly Death's word: »Drum spert euch nit«, and partly the emperor's words about increasing the country through fighting:


Mein land vnd leüt ich meren thet
Meim feindt auch dapffer widerstrebt,

ICh kundte das Reich gar wol mehren
Mit Streitten, Fechten, Vnrecht wehren:

In 1602, when the dance of death was painted, Rudolf II (1552 - 1612) was the Holy Roman Emperor. Curiously enough, it was also in 1602 that Rudolf had his own crown made, and The Crown of Rudolf II became the imperial crown of the Austrian Empire for the next three centuries. However, neither the emperor nor the crown resemble the painting very much.

Wikipedia writes about Rudolf: "He largely withdrew from Catholic observances and even in death refused the last sacramental rites" and "Although raised in his uncle's Catholic court in Spain, Rudolf was tolerant of Protestantism and other religions including Judaism". He was also hosting the astronomers Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler who both attended his court.

So Rudolf II was not a good Catholic, but in this Catholic dance the emperor is ordered by Death to follow the Pope: "dance nicely into [the dance] after the pope".

The emperor is wearing full armor, and in the background is an army with infantry and canons besieging a castle. He says: "My country and people I did increase" and this might have been true 160 years earlier in Basel, »Mit Streitten, Fechten«, but the opposite was true for Rudolf II. He fought with the Ottoman Empire for 13 years, until his subjects were exhausted and he was stripped of his powers.