241 Things

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Studium Generale 1000things lectures, The Hague

241 Things

Curator en author, known from exhibitions and publications Tussen Hemel en Hel - Sterven in de Middeleeuwen and Kijk op de Oudegyptische tekenkunst.

Death and life are inseparable. In the middle ages, this was manifest in a specific type of object, the ‘memento mori,’ which literally translates into ‘remember that you will die.’ In essence, the message is the same as the gnothi seuton (γνωθι σεαυτόν) of the ancient world, but instead of using the knowledge of impending death as an excuse to live life to the fullest, the middle ages focused their living days on ensuring that both the act of dying and the afterlife would be as painless as possible.

The memento mori embodies a variety of forms. For example, there’s the theme of the young girl and death, the dance of death that drags all, regardless of class or stature into a frenzied round dance, the story of the three dead and the three living: three handsome young men, a count, a duke, and a prince go on a journey together. On their way, they meet three skeletons. The men aren’t entirely comfortable and ask who exactly the dead are, to which the skeletons reply:
"What we (once) were, you are (now), what we are, you shall be (Quod fuimus, estis; quod sumus, vos eritis). Affluence, beauty, and fame will pass. Show penance for your sins and live a simple life from this day forth, then you shall live eternally in the glory of God."
Memento Mori necklace

Second half of the 16th century

This text was written for the exhibition ‘Tussen Hemel en Hel. Sterven in de middeleeuwen’ in the Jubelparkmuseum from 2.12.2010 until 24.04.2011