Death Cuts the Life-Thread - Atlas Obscura
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Death Cuts the Life-Thread

31 Days of Halloween: On Atlas Obscura this month, we’re celebrating Halloween each day with woeful, wondrous, and wickedly macabre tales all linked to a real locale that you can visit, if you dare.


Death cuts the life-thread (photograph by theqspeaks/Flickr user)

Death is often depicted as a reaper of souls, harvesting lives by slicing them down with a scythe. In Munich, there’s an incredibly detailed and curious sculpture of death doing the job with scissors, the blades poised just before the final cut to the thread of life. 

The Asamkirche, or Asam Church, as it is known for its creators Egid Quirin Asam and Cosmas Damian Asam was constructed from 1733 to 1746, and is a ridiculously lavish chapel of gilding, flying cherubs, frescoes, and generally just gold everywhere, with little left without ornamentation. This Late Baroque sensibility for the extreme in decor got it into our round up of Rococo Monstrosities.

Death with the life-thread scissors is poised near the entrance portal, with intricate details on the bones and even teeth, although the skeleton ends just after the torso, making it appear as if it’s emerging suddenly from some hidden realm. The idea is similar to the Greek Fates, where Atropos was depicted as the one who severed the threads of life with shears. 

The church was originally meant to be the private worship space of the Asam brothers, but the public wanted in and they eventually relented. Hopefully they weren’t too shocked at what they saw with this omen lurking in the spectacle of extravagance. 


Detail of the scissors (photograph by sushiesque/Flickr user)


A cherub beneath the sculpture (photograph by sushiesque/Flickr user)


View of church, with death cutting the string on the left (photograph by Richard Mortel)


Detail of the sculpture (photograph by Steve Collins)

A view of the church’s numerous ornamentations, with death at the lower left (photograph by txmx 2/Flickr user)

DEATH CUTS THE LIFE-THREAD: ASAMKIRCHE, Munich, Germany


Click here for more of our 31 Days of Halloween, where each day we’re celebrating the strange-but-true unsettling corners of the world.