White Thorn. From http://www.burrencottage.com/Photos/VN07.jpg
Today it is the 205th birthday of Hans Christian Andersen (April 2, 1805 – August 4, 1875), the Danish author and poet, so well recognized for his children’s stories.
Andersen’s tale “Danish Popular Legends” was first published in The Riverside Magazine for Young People, Vol. IV, pp. 470-474, New York, October 1870. It has never been published in Denmark.
Here is one of those legends, where we see the human body deterioration in connection to a church’s decayment.
I must tell you one more church legend. There lived in Denmark, on the island of Falster, a rich lady of rank, who had no children, and her family was about to die out. So she took a part of her riches, and built a magnificent church. When it was finished, and the altar-candles lighted, she stepped up to the altar-table and prayed on her knees to our Lord, that He would grant her, for her pious gift, a life upon the earth as long as her church was standing. Years went by. Her relations died, her old friends and acquaintances, and all the former servants of the manor were laid in their graves; but she, who made such an evil wish, did not die. Generation upon generation became strange to her, she did not approach anybody, and nobody approached her. She wasted away in a long dotage, and sat abandoned and alone; her senses were blunted, she was like a sleeping, but not like a dead person. Every Christmas Eve the life in her flashed up for a moment, and she got her voice again. Then she would order her people to put her in an oak coffin, and place it in the open burying-place of the church. The minister then would come on the Christmas night to her, in order to receive her commands. She was laid in the coffin, and it was brought to the church. The minister came, as ordered, every Christmas night, through the choir up to the coffin, raised the cover for the old, wearied lady, who was lying there without rest.
“Is my church still standing?” she asked, with shivering voice; and upon the minister’s answer, “It stands still!” she sighed profoundly and sorrowfully, and fell back again. The minister let the cover down, and came again the next Christmas night, and the next again, and still again the following. Now there is no stone of the church left upon another, no traces of the buried dead ones. A large whitethorn grows here on the field, with beautiful flowers every spring, as if it were the sign of the resurrection of life. It is said that it grows on the very spot where the coffin with the noble lady stood, where her dust became dust of earth.