The Dance of Death in Verges

May 31st, 2010 | by nick |

Verges: Dansa de la mort 2009 093 por dantzan.

130 kilometres north of Barcelona lies the small town of Verges.  Every Maundy Thursday Verges still “celebrates” the medieval European tradition of the Dansa de La Mort or “Dance of Death”. The macabre nocturnal display features five agile dancers who dance around the crowds in luminescent skeleton costumes. This is the last vestige of a once common spectacle throughout Europe. Above image by dantzen on flickr.

The origin of the dances of death lie in:

The deathly horrors of the 14th century—such as recurring famines; the Hundred Years’ War in France; and, most of all, the Black Death—were culturally assimilated throughout Europe. The omnipresent possibility of sudden and painful death increased the religious desire for penitence, but it also evoked a hysterical desire for amusement while still possible; a last dance as cold comfort. Wikipedia

Francis Barrett elsewhere on iberianature notes:

Verges, with remains of medieval walls and towers, is famous for its macabre Holy Week procession of very distinctive pagan origin, la Dansa del Mort, the dance of the dead. This is performed each Easter Thursday at the end of a long and rather tedious Passion Play, but, as the village bars remain impiously open all evening, is nevertheless well worth seeing.

Francis also notes:

The murmuring crowds lining the unilluminated medieval laneways fall silent at the approach of the torchlit crucifixion procession, led by skeletal figures advancing in a series of jerky stacatto rotations roughly choreographed to a hair-raising semi-irregular single drumbeat – by far the most disturbing aspect of the event.

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