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Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Woman in White: Richmodis von Aducht



From Cologne: The Tale of Richmodis von Aducht

In the mid-fifteenth century plague spread through the city of Cologne. In its shadows, a woman in black could be seen creeping through the narrow streets. It was the Black Death. Its poisonous breath seeped through the window cracks of meager huts but was also seen in palaces and fine houses alike. Without pity it took the life of many thousands.
The gravediggers painted a black cross on innumerable house posts – a sign that the pestilence had visited.

The number of dead rose so quickly that it soon became impossible to bury them all. The bodies of the unfortunate were pushed into a common grave, covered with earth and a wooden cross was placed on top.  It was a time when crying, moaning and wailing filled the narrow lanes of the old city of Cologne.

Near the New Market close to the Church of the Apostles there lived a rich councilor by the name of Mengis of Aducht . But fate visited him and plucked his youthful bride from his arms. The young councilor’s grief was without bounds. He could not pull himself away from the corpse of his bride wearing the white wedding dress she had worn only a few years before. After decorating the coffin with flowers, he adorned his silent wife with the beautiful earrings she had worn in life.

Even the night seemed to mourn the loss of Lady Richimodis. It was deadly still in the cemetery near the church when suddenly the bar of the wooden door was raised. Two shadows slid by through the dark rows of newly dug graves. It was the two grave diggers of the Holy Apostle’s Church, who had buried the young wife of the councilor.  They had closed the lid of the casket while the knight bowed before his wife one last time. But they could not help noticing the sparkling gems, precious rings and costly fabric that enveloped the young woman.

But now from the darkness the rustling of dried flowers in the funeral wreath could be heard. The two grave diggers returned, but this time with sinister intent. Slowly they dug up the tomb and the clods of earth piled high. A dull noise rang out and the light from the lantern flickered as the two men hastily opened the lid of the coffin and gazed upon the lifeless face of the lady. The light of the lantern fell on the folded hands of the corpse and the rings on her fingers glistened.

Suddenly the lifeless body twitched in its coffin. The small, narrow fingers moved. In horror the grave robbers raced from that place, leaving the coffin open and their tools lying on the ground.

A deep sigh emanated from the crypt. Several minutes later the woman who had been buried there sat up. Her eyes searched the dark surroundings. Slowly she understood what had happened: in a death-like state they had buried her while she slumbered.  But her horror only gave her a new vitality. She stood up and gripped the lantern left behind. And without restraint she opened the door the robbers forgot to lock.

The streets were empty. Only the silent stars looked down on the lonely figure in the snow-white gown as she made her way home.

To read the latest about the Black Death in the NYT, go to:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/13/science/13plague.html

Read more fairy tales by clicking on the link:
FairyTaleChannel.com

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