Chartres Local Custom Tips by hquittner Top 5 Page for this destination
Chartres Local Customs: 5 reviews and 6 photos
Death Claims the Baby in the Crib
In the 14C European humanity was beset by intense widespread random death from rampaging war and pillage, plague and famine. As these events subsided in the 15C, the only places of social congregation (and amusement and distraction) were churches and some fairs. From before Roman times and continuing today, the living are exploited by exhibitions of death and mayhem (virtual or real) for a variety of purposes. In the mid 15C a popular poem appeared "The Danse Macabre" which laughed at the fact of unpredictable death for all. This was at the advent of the printing press and it was widely distributed and wood cut illustrations were also sold. The Church exploited the popular taste with Sermons and there were illustrative "plays" or "dances" on the church parvis. In a few cases the material of the poem was illustrated on the Church Walls. This must have appealed to the general populace who could delight in the equality of the frailty of all men, from the Pope (with a Tiara) the Emperor (crowned), bishop(mitred), and the various others by their dress or instruments down to the baby in the crib. Death as a skeleton carrying a scythe, pops up among the characters. This should not be confused with the "Dance of Death" , a Medieval graveyard superstition in which the dead arise before midnight and dance before going out to claim new victims to join their club.
The Knights and Skeletons
Also illustrated on the wall of the church in Meslay-le-Grenet (see our Off the Beaten Path Tips), is the legend of the three roistering young knights who are returning from a hunt when they encounter three skeletons who speak to them with the warning "that which you are, we were". I have seen a similar depiction in a 14C mural in the Campo Santo in Pisa, except in it there is a hermit who shows the skeletons and pronounces the warning. Such artistic renderings are quite rare, Do you know of others? Or Danse Macabres? (My picture does not have all the details).
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