The legend of the grateful Dead of Baar 16th century
This fresco located in Baar, Switzerland, was painted on an ossuary wall in the
first half of the 16th century. In 1740, it was restored and heavily modified.
Still, the Legend of the grateful and helpful dead of Baar is one of the best
examples of a very rare macabre genre. In the Baar picture, a man is chased by a
band of thieves. Sheltering in a cemetery, he kneels down and prays for help.
Grateful for the prayers this man piously says so that their souls rest in peace,
the dead arise and walk out of their graves to protect him, some with scythes,
others with sticks. This tale belongs exclusively to the Germanic culture; is
was widespread in Switzerland, and to a lesser extent in Germany. The Legend of
the grateful and helpful dead taught people a lesson quite different from the
other macabre genres. The Legend of the three living and the three dead, the
dance of death and the triumph of death show that all men must die; here, the
grateful dead remind us to pray in memory of the ones we loved. Instead of being
a menace, the fleshless corpses lend a hand to the people crying out in fear.
La Mort dans l'Art