Danse Macabre or "Dance of the Death" is a medieval allegory about the inevitability of death. It consists in skeletons leading living humans to their graves in a lively waltz. Kings, knights, and commoners alike join in, conveying that regardless of status, wealth, or accomplishments in life, death comes for everyone.

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Though a few earlier examples exist in literature or sermon texts, the first known visual Danse Macabre comes from around 1424. It was a large fresco painted in the open arcade of the charnel house in Paris’s Cemetery of the Holy Innocents. The fresco depicted human figures accompanied by skeletons in a long procession. A verse inscribed on the wall below each of the living figures explained the person’s station in life, arranged in order of social status from pope and emperor to shepherd and farmer. Clothing and accessories, like the pope’s cross-shaped staff and robes, or the farmer’s hoe and simple tunic, also helped identify each person.

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The subject is used as a memento mori, to remind people of the fragility of their lives and how vain were the glories of earthly life.

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Some bonus works about the Danse Macabre that I really enjoy are in music and poetry:

Ghost - Dance Macabre


Camille Saint-Saens - Danse Macabre


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe - Dance of Death

It's about the skeletons of men and women who have died dance in the middle of the night. When their shrouds fall across the graveyard, the warder picks one up. When the dead try to go back into their tombs, the one whose shroud was taken stays awake. He seeks out the warder and seeks the warder's death unless he returns it.

Here's the link to the poem (because it's too long to paste here):



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