City and Spectacle in Medieval Europe

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University of Minnesota Press, 1994 - History - 331 pages
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Medieval Europe is known for its sense of ceremony and drama. Knightings, tournaments, coronations, religious processions, and even private celebrations such as baptisms, weddings and funerals were occasions for ritual, feasting and public display. This volume takes a comprehensive look at the many types of city spectacles that entertained the masses and confirmed various messages of power in late medieval Europe. Bringing together leading scholars in history, art history, and literature, this interdisciplinary collection aims to set new standards for the study of medieval popular culture. Drawing examples from Spain, England, France, Italy, and the Netherlands, most of them in the 15th century, the authors explore the uses of ceremony as statements of political power, as pleas for divine intercession, and as expressions of popular culture. Their essays show us spectacles meant to confirm events such as victories, the signing of a city charter, the coronation of a king. In other circumstances, the spectacle acted as a battleground where a struggle for the control of the metaphors of power is played out between factions within cities, or between cities and kings. Yet other ceremonies called upon divine spiritual powers in the hope that their intervention might save the urban inhabitants. We see here a public cognizant of the power of symbols to express its goals and achievements, a society reaching the height of sophistication in its manipulation of popular and elite culture for grand shows.

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