Lübeck's Dance of Death

The Five Sacred Wounds

The dances of death sometimes show a fascination with God's wounds — like in this example from the end of the first chapter in Des dodes dantz:

De vefte is de ewighe doet to ewigher tyd
Dar vor beware vns ihesus vnser here
Dorch synen doet vnde syner hilghen vyf wunden ere
The fifth is the eternal death for eternal times;
[may] Jesus - our Lord - save us from this
through his death and his holy five wounds.


Christ's five wounds
Christ's five wounds
The man of sorrows from the high altar in Tallinn, click the coloured areas.
The man of sorrows in Tallinn
Man of sorrows The instruments of passion

Medieval mystics — calculating the number of Christ's wounds — have arrived at a whopping total of 5,466, but the 5,461 wounds that resulted from the scourging and the crown of thorns are of minor importance compared to the wounds Jesus received in his hands and feet during the crucifixion and the wound in his side when he was stabbed with a lance.

When Jesus was stabbed in the side, blood and water flowed from the wound (John 19:34). Since blood is central in the Eucharist and water in the baptism, we have here those two liquids that are necessary for salvation. Thus the church is born through Christ's wounds in the same manner as Eve was born from the side of Adam.

John 19:34: But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.

Jesus has appeared from time to time before many holy people and promised eternal salvation to those who would pray to his wounds and kiss them spiritually (!) every day.

The painting to the right is from the high altar of the Church of the Holy Ghost in Tallinn, made by Bernt Notke, and shows Christ as the man of sorrows (see next chapter). The so-called "instruments of the passion" (crown of thorns, spikes, 30 silver coins etc.) are painted below on the city arms of Tallinn. The colours in Tallinn's city arms are the same as in the Danish flag (see the upper right corner of this page) reminding us that the name Tallinn means "the Danish town" !

The Man of Sorrows

Mass of St. Gregory, attributed to Notke
Mass of St. Gregory
Mass of St. Gregory in Aarhus by Bernt Notke, click to see entire picture.
Mass of St. Gregory in Aarhus by Bernt Notke

In the 7th century Pope Gregory the Great had an unbelievable experience: During the Eucharist, Christ appeared on the altar - displaying His still-bleeding wounds - and letting the blood drip into the chalice. Thus He proved the transubstantiation as a literal fact.

The painting to the left is attributed to Bernt Notke and used to hang in St. Mary's church in Lübeck until it was destroyed in 1942 — The painting to the right is from the high altar in Ċrhus Cathedral (Denmark) and was executed by Bernt Notke.

The dance of death in Egtved starts with a man of sorrows who unfortunately — like all the participants in the dance of death — has lost his head. Then follows a prayer devoted to the pains and wounds of Our Saviour. See the page about Egtved for details.

Further information: