Copenhagen's Dance of Death, Part 1

In this book is contained/
First a Prologue to the Reader about
Four kinds of Death.
Thereupon Death speaks to the Persons/
and answers them all finally.
Death speaks to

The Congregation. The Pope.
The Emperor. The Empress.
The King. The Duke.
The Cardinal. The Bishop.
The Abbot. Master of German Order.
The doctor of medical art.
The Canon. The Vicar.
The Monk. The Knight.
The Official. The Hermit.
The Mayor. The Nun.
The Merchant. The Nobleman.
The Maiden. The Beguine.
The Citizen. The Craftsman.
The Fool. The Peasant.
The Student. The Nurse.
The Rider. The Journeyman.


The preacher

A final summary and admonition.




My dear friends, I'm learning,
which I'm about to tell you,
that the world is totally infested with sin.
This has now been forgotten for a long time.

Dødedantz, Part 2, click too see the page

Introduction If you want to see the original pages, click the little pictures.

If you want to read the page in the original medieval Danish, select the Danish section by clicking the red-and-white flag at the top right corner of this page.

The left page (and a few letters on the right page) are missing from the only existing copy of Copenhagen's Dance of Death and has been restored using Dødedantz (the 1634-edition).

You may wonder why the text starts with »a final summary«. As this restoration shows, »(Thereupon) A final summary and admonition« is not a part of the text — as has been thought for centuries — but rather the title of the last chapter of the book and thus the last line of the table of contents.

Peter Palladius' translation of Luther's Enchiridion, Copenhagen 1538. The first petition.
Enchiridion, First petition
Martin Luther's Enchiridion, Der kleine Catechismus, Nürnberg ca. 1530. The third commandment: Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Notice the man gathering sticks in the background.
Enchiridion, Third commandment

The illustration on this page is not from the Lübeckian dances of death. The publisher, Hans Vingaard, has reused a woodcut from his edition of Peter Palladius' translation of Luther's Enchiridion (i.e. little Catechism). The picture to the left shows the first petition — i. e. »Hallowed be thy name«.

The woodcuts in Hans Vingaard's Enchiridion are copied from the German editions of Enchiridion, and there's the added twist, that the Danish printer seems to have confused the woodcuts for the third commandment and the first petition. An understandable mistake since both scenes depict a priest in front of the congregation — and a mistake also to be found in some German editions of Enchiridion.

The bottom line is that the illustration in Copenhagen's dance of death is a copy of a woodcut depicting the third Lutheran commandment: »Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy«. The woodcut shows a story from the Bible (Numbers, 15) where an Israelite is stoned to death for gathering sticks upon the Sabbath day.

The fact that there's a man gathering sticks in the background has the effect of moving the entire scene outdoors. Therefore the picture could easily illustrate a theater play, where Prologus introduces the play.

En smuck oc meget nyttelig Børne Tuct, 1559
Børne Tuct.

The same woodcut was used at the end of the dance, whereas the woodcut for the first petition (which in the Danish Enchiridion was used for illustrating the Third Commandment), was used for the vicar.

Later on, in 1559, the woodcut was used on the frontpage of the book En smuck oc meget nyttelig Børne Tuct (i.e. a beautiful and very useful children discipline).