Vincent de Kastav, The Dance of Death

Fresco, 1474, St. Mary's Church, Beram, Croatia

The far left of the fresco: a merchant (?) and a pilgrim.

Left of the middle: a skeleton takes a child by the hand. In a German Totentanz, a child asks, "Must I die when I can't yet walk?"

Middle: A man with a barrel and a woman with a bowl. In the Chester Descent into Hell, a woman "tapster" has been left behind in Hell. She used to sell undersize portions of adulterated brew.

Right of the middle: a knight and a bishop

Far right: a king and on the left a man who is richly dressed (a judge?)

Many readers will be familiar with Dance of Death paintings from Bergman's The Seventh Seal, where the knight visits a painter who is preparing a church fresco much like the one in the pictures above. Others may have encountered the late medieval focus on the ubiquity of death in literary works such as German Totentanz poetry and the Chester Last Judgment (Deimling, II, 427-53), which emphasize how death comes to all regardless of profession or status.

The Dance of Death fresco at St. Mary's follows in this tradition. It occupies the upper section of one long wall, so we photographed it in five sections that you can examine by moving the horizontal slide bar below. As in many such images, skeletons conduct to their deaths representatives of various types of people.

View full-resolution copies of the five photographs:

Photographed at the church by Claire Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.