The Legend of the Three Living and the Three Dead

The Three Living and the Three Dead is a medieval legend, believed to come from 13th century France. The story goes that three brothers are out hunting when they encounter three corpses, who warn the brothers to repent their prodigal ways. ”Such as I was you are, and such as I am you will be. Wealth, honor and power are of no value at the hour of your death.”.

Death was a common theme in later medieval art, and of notable interest is the fact that while skeletons were always fairly common, there was a pronounced shift around the 14th century which saw increasingly popular depictions of actual bodies or corpses, rather than mere bones. Possible explanations for this shift suggest people’s experiences with war, famine, and plague as inspiration for their art, but as these are hardly elements unique to the later middle ages, it is more likely that this artistic movement stems from ecclesiastical changes.