ORB Online Encyclopedia
Danish Church Art
The Life of Jesus to Age 12
Massacre of the Innocents
This theme presents an interesting set of images. In three of the wall paintings, Eskilstrup, c.1300, in Moerkoev, c.1450, and in Jetsmark, 1474, a devil is seen behind Herod, whispering in his ear. Another interesting comparison can be made between the energy shown by the soldier in the Romanesque wall painting in Hvorlsev c. 1175, with the attitude of the soldiers in Gislev c.1520. In Gislev the soldiers appear bored and detached. In Elmelunde, women are seen striking at the soldiers with their distaffs. In both the Digby and the Chester plays a mother threatens a soldier with her distaff. In Play X of the Chester Cycle, the mother says; (Note 1)"this distaff and thy head shall meete or we heathen gonne."
In the Digby Play the mother says, (Note 2)"ffye upon the, coward, iff I will not faile to dubbe the knyght with my rokke round!"
In the Digby play the dialect word "rokke" is used instead of distaff. The modern Danish word for distaff is "rokkehoved". The encounter between the mother and the soldier is found in several other Danish churches.
Hvorslev. c.1175. (M-K 12-009). Massacre of the Innocents. Hidden by alter table. Left, headless body of infant. Right, soldier, shield slung on back by means of strap around neck, holds child by leg as he raises sword.
Hvorslev. c.1175. (M-K 12-010). Massacre of the Innocents. Hidden by alter table. Soldier raises sword to strike.
Raasted. c.1175. (M-K 20-103). Massacre of the Innocents. East wall, left. Left, figure stands behind Herod. Next, Herod, seated, hands sword to soldier who holds child by leg. Right, soldier lifts sword to strike a child held in left hand. Fragments of bodies are strewn around.
Eskilstrup. c.1300. (M-K 07-087). Massacre of the Innocents. West wall. Herod, crowned, points, devil whispers in his ear. Figures right with swords.
Hoejelse. c.1400. (M-K 12-103). Massacre of the Innocents. East wall, left. Detail.
Moerkoev. c.1450. Isefjord Workshop. (M-K 17-047). Massacre of the Innocents. Sect 1, west arch. Left, devil, left foot on seat of Herod's throne, whispers into Herod's ear. Herod, crowned, scepter in right hand, sword, inverted, in left, seated on throne with canopy, looks to soldier right. first soldier, in chain mail, holds body of child aloft on spear. Second soldier, in plate, stabs child, held in left hand, with sword. Third soldier, sword raised overhead. Fourth soldier, is struck by distaff held by woman. Right, two other women with dead children.
Jetsmark. c.1474. (M-K 13-027). Massacre of the Innocents. Sect 2, south arch. Center hidden by pulpit. Herod, crowned, seated on chair, scepter in left hand, left hand, one finger extended, speaks to soldier.
Elmelunde. c.1480. Elmelunde. (M-K 07-061). Massacre of the Innocents. Sect 2, south arch. Left, Herod, crowned, seated on high backed throne, pointing to first soldier, dressed in plate, who is stabbing child with sword. Three bloody children lie between Herod and soldier. Woman strikes second soldier with distaff held in left hand, holds arm of child that soldier is stabbing with sword in right. second soldier in plate. Between woman and soldier, child in swaddling clothes, bleeding.
Gislev. c.1520. (M-K 09-069). Massacre of the Innocents. Sect 3, west arch. Left, 1st executioner stabs child, held by leg, with sword. Body of another child at his feet. second executioner holds child by leg and stabs with dagger. third executioner holds child by leg and stabs with dagger.
Sulsted. c.1548. Hans Maler. (M-K 23-029). Massacre of the Innocents. Sect 3, south arch. Poor condition, much lost. Left, buildings of Jerusalem, one man rides out of gate. Center, much lost, soldiers kills children, one mother attacks soldier with board used to smooth linen. Right, building. Text below. her rider herodes ud af ierusalem og her lader herodis thiel sla boernene i betlehem ock omegn.
Oddense, Torummaler Workshop. 1540. (M-K 20-057). Massacre of the Innocents. Above, left, soldier stabs child, soldier holds body of child on spear. Right, Herod, crowned, scepter in right hand. Below, a number of soldiers kill the children.
If you would like to look at the images listed below, go to Axel Bolvig's collection of wall painting at the University of Copenhagen at http://kalk.historie.ku.dk Go to the Kirkeindex, select the name of the church with the wall painting, and browse through the wall paintings in the church until you see the one you want.
Fanefjord. c.1480. Elmelunde. 08-033. Massacre of the Innocents. North nave, sect 3, east arch, right. Soldier holds sword over head in right hand, holds bleeding child in left by hair. Woman, right, strikes at soldier with distaff. Bleeding child in swaddling clothes lies ground between soldier and woman. Text below. Isti pro christo mundo tolbuntur ab isto.
Eskilstrup. c.1300. 07-088. Massacre of the Innocents. West wall. Dismembered bodies.
Fanefjord. c.1480. Elmelunde. 08-032. Massacre of the Innocents. North nave, sect 3, east arch, left. Left, Herod, crowned, stands giving orders. Bleeding child at Herod's feet. Center, soldier in plate, stabs child held by arm with sword.
Hoejelse. c.1400.12-097. Massacre of the Innocents. East wall. left, possible Massacre of the Innocents. Center, two women stand before tomb, Resurrection.
Kvistlemark. c.1435. Kongsted Workshop.15-115. Massacre of the Innocents. Sect 1, west arch, detail left side.
Kvitslemark. c.1435. Kongsted Workshop.15-116. Massacre of the Innocents. Sect 1, west arch, detail right side.
Loenborg. c.1560. 20-058. Massacre of the Innocents. Bottom part
Reerslev. c.1450. Isefjord Workshop. 20-005. Massacre of the Innocents. Sect 1, south arch. Left, devil stands behind Herod. Next, Herod, holding scepter in both hands, sitting on throne. First soldier stabs child held in right hand. Second soldier stabs child held in left hand. Second soldier attacked by woman wielding distaff. Cradle between second soldier and woman. Far right, building.
Reerslev. c.1450. Isefjord Workshop. 20-006. Massacre of the Innocents. Sect 1, south arch, left detail. Devil behind Herod, right.
Svaerdborg. c.1375-1400. 23-032. Massacre of the Innocents. Choir, west arch. Massacre of the Innocents and flight to Egypt. Top, soldier kills child. Right, Herod, crowned, scepter in left hand, sits on bench. Left, BVM, holding Child, sits on donkey lead by Joseph.
Tingsted. c.1480. Elmelunde Workshop. 25-039. Massacre of the Innocents. Sect 1, south arch. Left, Massacre of the Innocents. Left, Herod, seated on bench, left hand raised, pointing at soldiers. Center left, woman holds child in swaddling cloths. Center, soldier, in plate, stabs child with sword. Right, soldier stabs child with knife, second child bleeding at his feet. Scroll above, text. Isti pro cristo mundo tolluntur ab illo. Right, swiftly growing grain. Left, soldier, left hand points to scroll, text. Hic semen deponitur. Right, farmer reaps grain with sickle.
Tuse. c.1450. Isefjord Workshop. 25-105. Massacre of the Innocents. Sect 1, south arch. Left, Herod, crowned, scepter in right hand, sword in left, stands before building. Center left, soldier holds up spear with body of child on head. Center, three soldiers kill children with spear, sword and scimitar, several bleeding bodies of children on the ground. Right, cradle, mother tries to pull child from hand of soldier. Woman attacks soldier with distaff. Far right, woman tries to protect child with body.
Tuse. c.1450. Isefjord Workshop. 25-106. Massacre of the Innocents. Sect 1, south arch, right detail. Woman attacks soldier with distaff.
Vellev. c.1500. 28-051. Massacre of the Innocents. Choir, east wall, left. Herod, sword in right hand, talks to soldiers.
Aagerup. c.1500. 31-026. Massacre of the Innocents. Sect 3, south arch. Left, Herod sends soldiers out. Right, soldiers killing children. Woman hits soldier with distaff.
Images found in Danmarks kirker
Aal, XIX-1322, 44-58. Massacre of the Innocents. wood sculpture. c.1450. By the Lueneburg workshop.
Odder, XVI-2536, 21, 74. Massacre of the Innocents, copper covered carved wood reredos. 1050-1150.
Esboenderup, II-1027, 20, 21a-d. Massacre of the Innocents, stone sculpture, font. 1150-1250. Similar to Graested, Lille Lyngby, and Vejby.
Note 1. M. Lumiansky and David Mills, ed. The Chester Mystery Cycle. The Early English Text Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1974
Note 2. F. J. Furnivall, ed. The Digby Mysteries. The New Shakespere Society Publications, Series VII, English Mysteries No. 1, Vaduz: Kraus Reprint LTF. 1956. lines 309-10.