Lübeck's Dance of Death

St. George and the Dragon

The princess and the lamb
The princess and the lamb have been placed upon the city of Selena.

The St. George group is located in Storkyrkan — the Church (now Cathedral) of Saint Nicholas in Stockholm (Sweden).

The knight is a young man in golden armour. He has run his lance through the dragon and has now raised his sword to deliver the killing blow.

St. George and the dragon
From the left: the lamb, the princess, St. George and the dragon.

Around his neck is a chain with a box containing sacred relics (including authentic bones from St. George) - and a note from the consecration. His helm is laid on the ground before the figure group, whereas his shield has disappeared centuries ago.

The knight can be detached from the horse - and maybe he used to be carried around in processions.

The horse is rendered very realistically - and is richly decorated with motives from the bible.

The dragon supports the horse
The dragon's hind leg carries the weight of the horse (picture from Lübeck)
The dragon is lying on its back. Below are spread body parts from humans and lamb - while the dragon's offspring are crawling among the rubble. The dragon is bisexual with male and female genitalia - symbolising that evil can multiply on its own. The dragon is defecating while being attacked (isn't it incredible what you can show in a church?).

The dragon's one foreleg is clutching the broken lance, while the hind leg pushes the horse's belly. In this way, the artist has stabilised the statue, since the dragon's leg carries the weight of the rearing horse with knight.

The princess waits in her bridal veil - along with a lamb. If the knight loses the battle, she and the lamb will become the dragon's next meal.

The princess and the lamb are placed upon the city of Selena, which is very illogical - since she was supposed to wait for the dragon down at the beach. This arrangement is not only illogical, but also unoriginal, since it has been necessary to saw of a part of her veil and the bottom plate in order to fit her and the lamb inside the top of the city.

The plinth is decorated with reliefs, depicting the martyrdom of St. Georg. It's assumed that the original plinth was much larger and contained a vault with the coffins of the donor Sten Sture and his wife - along with an altar for St. George.

History

Sten Sture
The plinth was originally meant to contain the earthly remains of Sten Sture. That's why it says 'Sten stur[e] ridd' (Swedish 'riddare' means knight).

The work was consecrated in 1489 and paid by the Swedish viceroy Sten Sture. He needed financial aid though, from 10 of his men, since the work cost 4.000 mark - an incredible sum in those days.

Sten Sture died in 1503 and was presumably interred in the plinth of the St. George group. However, shortly after that he was brought to his final rest in the cloister church of Mariefred.

Saint George & the Dragon, Stockholm The dragon, Stockholm The Princess, Stockholm Saint George & the Dragon were probably originally placed in the middle of the church, but as soon as 1528 the statue was moved because it took up too much room. It was moved further around a number of times, and in 1866 it wound up on the Historical Museum.

In the beginning of the 20th Century the group was returned to the church. Some of the reliefs on the plinth were found in the churches of Ed and Danderyd, and some have never been recovered. The placing of the individual figures and parts - as well as the group as a whole - is debatable to say the least.

A copy in bronze

The dragon on Köpmansbrinken in Stockholm
A copy in bronze - Köpmanbrinken in Stockholm.

On Köpmanbrinken in Gamla Stan (the old Stockholm Town) there's a bronze-copy from 1912-13, moulded by Otto Meyer. It is a very close copy but some of the parts have been arranged differently from the group in Storkyrkan: The knight is wearing his helmet and the body parts below the dragon are placed differently.

Saint George & the Dragon, Köpmanbrinken i Stockholm The Princess, Köpmanbrinken i Stockholm Saint George & the Dragon, Köpmanbrinken i Stockholm

A copy in Lübeck

Saint George & the Dragon in Lübeck
A copy in plaster - Katharinenkirche in Lübeck.
The princess in Lübeck
The princess in Lübeck.

In 1926 Carl Georg Heise got the idea that Katharinenkirche in Lübeck should be used for exhibiting plaster replicas of sculptures from the Baltic area of Lübeckian origin. Heise had already "proved" that Notke had created the dances of death in Lübeck and Tallinn, and now the St. Georg statue was proclaimed to be yet another work by Notke.

Today the Katharinenkirche is a museum church but it still displays a full-size plaster copy of St. George and the Dragon. The reliefs have not been copied and neither has the city of Selena. There are considerably fewer body parts under the dragon.

Saint George & the Dragon in Lübeck Saint George & the Dragon in Lübeck The Dragon in Lübeck The Princess in Lübeck The Lamb in Lübeck

Let's take a closer look at two claims about the St. George group:

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Further information:


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