The Dancing Plague of 1518

May 16 2022

Image of The Dancing Plague of 1518

Picture: Holtzius after Peter Brueghel the Elder

There's an interesting article on the BBC culture website by Rosalind Jana on the so-called Strasbourg Dancing Plague in 1518. The technical term for the plagues is choreomania, and lovers of Brueghel will now it from a number of his works, as above. But as Rosalind explains, the Strasbourg plague wasn't the only one:

Though it is now the most famous example, Strasbourg was not the only "dance plague" to hit Europe during the medieval and early modern era. Many instances of uncontrolled or threatening dancing were recorded in Germany, France, and other parts of the Holy Roman Empire. In earlier centuries these events were interpreted as divine punishment or demonic possession, remedied with religious solutions like processions, masses, or direct intervention from priests. Two decades before the summer of 1518, a cleric in Strasbourg named Sebastian Brant wrote in his satirical allegory The Ship of Fools "that dance and sin are one in kind," blaming Satan for all this "giddy dancing gayly done".

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