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Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Medieval Dance Mania

 

Medieval Dance Mania (13th–17th Century)

Dance mania, otherwise known as the Dancing Plague, St. John’s Dance, or the Dance of St. Vitus, gripped mainland Europe between the 13th and 17th centuries. One of the most well-known major outbreaks took place in Aachen, Germany, on June 24, 1374. During this occurrence, afflicted individuals would dance hysterically through the streets for hours, days, and apparently even months, until they collapsed due to exhaustion or died from heart attack or stroke. The number of participants at any one outbreak could reach into the thousands.

A depiction of dancing mania, which occurred on a pilgrimage to the church at Molenbeek, Belgium, by Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564–1638). (Wikimedia Commons)

The Dancing Plague is known to have occurred numerous times throughout medieval Europe, with outbreaks occurring in Italy, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Holland, and Switzerland. It was initially considered that the dancing mania was a curse sent by a saint, commonly thought to be St. John the Baptist or St. Vitus, hence the alternative names for the condition. People suffering from this condition would therefore proceed to places dedicated to the said saint in order to pray for deliverance from the affliction, a “remedy” that apparently restored many to full health.

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