Füssen, The abbot

The abbot
Hiebeler, Abbot

Death to the abbot

    der todt,
Herr Abbt vor mir seit ihr nit gfreit,
Muest auch mit mir in todten streit.
Legt weckh den stab vnd Infel fein,
Kombt hehr eß mueß getantzet sein.

Mr. Abbot, you are not saved from me,
You too must into Death's struggle.
Lay down the staff and mitre fine,
Come here, there must be dancing.

The abbot

    der Abbt.
Prelat ward ich in disem landt
Vnd hochgeacht in meinem standt.
Ietz kombt der todt was ist mein gwin,
Gott bhuet mein Kloster ich far dahin.

    the Abbot.
I was a prelate(1) in this country
and highly respected in my rank.
Now Death comes, what is my gain?
God protect my monastery; I'm going away.

Basel, Abbot, by Merian
Merian, Abbot
Basel, Abbot, by Büchel
Büchel, Abbot

In the correct order (see the start of this section) the abbot is the sixth scene. So we are still on the top shelf of society, where Death addresses his victims with Mr. and Mrs. (»Herr Abbt«), and Death uses the polite plural (»seit ihr« instead of "bist du").

The text does not have many similarities with the abbot in Basel except for the request to put away staff and miter. The word is "Infel", denoting the headdress of a bishop or abbot. The word goes back to Latin, "infula".

The abbot's miter has fallen to the ground. If Merian's engraving (left) is to be believed, Death himself had donned a bishop's miter in Basel, but he did not have one in Büchel's watercolours, so that detail must be Merian's free imagination.

Matthias Schober, epitaph
Matthias Schober

The abbot is almost certainly Matthias Schober who for 27 years was an abbot of the Benedictine monastery Sankt Mang in Füssen and who had commissioned this dance of death. Schober died in 1604, two years after the completion of the painting.

In this Catholic dance, the abbot and the other clergy are presented in a good light, and his last thought goes to the monastery: »Gott bhuet mein Kloster ich far dahin«. In Basel, these closing words were reserved for the last dancer, the painter: »Behüt euch GOtt ich fahr darvon«.

Footnotes: (1)

Prelate . . .: Clergyman of high rank.