Copenhagen's Dance of Death, 1550

The dance:

Prologue
Death
Pope
Emperor
Empress
King
Duke
Cardinal
Bishop
Abbot
German Templar
Physician
Canon
Vicar
Monk
Knight
Official
Hermit
Mayor
Nun
Merchant
Young lord
Maid
Citizen
Beguine
Jester
Craftsman
Student
Peasant
Rider
Wet nurse with child
Journeyman
A final summary

The pope Death on the lion Copenhagen's Dance of Death is based on the two Lübeckian books Des dodes dantz and Dodendantz. Several lines are direct translations and a few lines are even copied un-translated in Low German! The 30 participants and the introduction with the Fall are the same as in Dodendantz, while other parts like for instance the concept of 4 kinds of Death are taken from Des dodes dantz.

The book is illustrated with the same woodcuts as the Lübeckian books. This is because the printer, Hans Vingaard, had bought some printing materials from the German Mohnkopf-printery,(1) which included the original wooden blocks and, presumably, a copy of the 2 German books.

Death to the pope The unknown author hasn't just made a Danish copy of the German books - no more than the Lübeckian books are transcripts of the painting in Marienkirche. The Catholic Church - especially the pope - are blasted in plain speaking. On the other hand, Death being a good Protestant, promises the pious parish clerk that he will go directly to "a holy city". One can sense that the Reformation is close at hand.

Introduction Copenhagen's Dance of Death is conceived as a theatre play. The prologue starts with "my dear friends" and the audience is requested to be quiet and listen. Then Death calls on people from the different classes and leads them one by one into his "castle", which we may imagine has been a prop built on stage.

The emperor There is only one single, surviving copy and this is defective with pages missing. - therefore we know neither when it was printed nor the original title. In 1896 the book was re-published by Raphael Meyer who added an introduction and annotations.

In 1634 Dødedantz was published. This book contains the same text (apart from minor variations in spelling). This means that we can almost re-create the missing pages in Copenhagen's Dance of Death by taking the text from Dødedantz and the illustrations from the Lübeckian books. For reasons unknown to me, Dødedantz has been unknown for centuries so this is the first time that Copenhagen's Dance of Death has been restored in any media.

I have tried translating the entire restored book into English except for the last 4 page openings, which are simply too boring. Most of the annotations are copied from Meyer. Click on the list to the left or the little pictures.

Long sermon Death on the lion Death on the lion Death with spade The empress Death to the empress The king The duke The cardinal The bishop The Abbot German templar knight Physician Canon Vicar Monk Knight Hermit Mayor Nun Young lord Maid Craftsman Student Peasant The rider A Final summary

External links

In this section:

Outside this Section:

Footnotes: (1)

Mohnkopf's logo Mohnkopf's logo In some books you get the impression that the printery was named Mohnkopf. The company was actually anonymous but is called so today because of the three poppy fruits in their logo.

Up to Dance of Death books