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Plouha, France

Dance of Death at Chapelle Kermaria an Iskuit

Medieval Danse Macabre Fresco in Northern Brittany. 

In this 800 year old French chapel is a well preserved 15th Century fresco of the Danse Macabre, or “Dance of Death,” the only church in France to have such a fresco. Popular in the middle ages, Danse Macabre paintings and drawings showed kings, popes, peasants, beautiful women and people from all walks of life dancing together as skeletons. A type of “memento mori” they were meant to remind people that they were mortal and that earthly positions means little in the long run.

This particular painting is surprisingly found in a Catholic Church where earthly hierarchies were quite important. It shows the legendary figure Ankou, death’s assistant and sometimes said to have been the first child of Adam and Eve, is seen leading figures from all strata of society in the dance of death - the great leveler. According to the legend, the last person to die in a village during a year becomes Ankou for the following year.

The chapel itself is from the 13th Century and contains some interesting statues of saints.