Symbolic Communication in Late Medieval Towns

Symbolic Communication in Late Medieval Towns

Edited by Jacoba VAN LEEUWEN
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Leuven University Press
Pages: 147
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qf208
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  • Book Info
    Symbolic Communication in Late Medieval Towns
    Book Description:

    This volume addresses symbolic forms of communication in the late medieval towns of the Low Countries, northern France and the Swiss Confederation. In context of State centralisation, the political autonomy of these towns was threatened by tensions with higher levels of power. Within this conflict both rulers and towns employed symbolic means of communication to legitimise their power position. The intensive use of rituals like theatreplays and gift-exchange demonstrates that symbolic forms of communication were no routine jobs. Towns and rulers actively appropriated and reread older traditions in order to adapt them to the new settings in which they were employed. Tradition and innovation had to be balanced well, in order for the audience to understand the ritual correctly. However, the organiser could never control the new layers of meaning the audience would attach to the event. This volume seeks to explore how new layers of meaning were attached to well-known traditions, how these rituals were perceived and when the recognizability of a ritual was damaged by such appropriations. Both public encounters between rulers and towns are studied, as well as the use of ritual to express the political and religious relations between the various social groups within the towns.

    eISBN: 978-94-6166-113-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. vii-xx)
    Jacoba VAN LEEUWEN

    InModerne Mediävistik(1999), Hans-Werner Goetz pointed out that during the previous decade historians had paid increasing attention to the communication of medieval power. It was not power itself that was analysed. Rather, the emphasis was placed on the representation: the performance or the staging of power. Rituals, ceremonies, gestures, symbols and signs were the material the historian had to work with; sociology and anthropology provided the methodology to interpret these phenomena.¹

    This recent interest in symbolic communication cannot be labelled a true turn, be a cultural, symbolic or performative one. Research in this field is indeed rooted in the...

  4. RITUAL AND STATE-BUILDING: CEREMONIES IN LATE MEDIEVAL BRUGES
    (pp. 1-28)
    Andrew BROWN

    Communication between rulers and ruled, however symbolic, came with a price tag. The arrival in Bruges on 14 April 1457 of three rulers, Duke Philip the Good, his son Charles, and the dauphin Louis (while in rebellion against his father King Charles VII), put the citizens to some considerable expense.¹ According to a local chronicler, the visitors were received in ‘great triumph’ outside the Boeverie gate by the magistrates, principal citizens, and the craft guilds, all in costly dress; the city spent over 400livres parisison cloth, trumpets and torches at the gate, ontableaux vivantsalong the streets,...

  5. PUBLIC ENCOUNTERS BETWEEN THE CITY COUNCIL AND THE EPISCOPAL LORD IN LATE MEDIEVAL BASEL: ROUTINE JOBS OR TRANSITIONS IN SYMBOLIC COMMUNICATION?
    (pp. 29-42)
    Christoph Friedrich WEBER

    By taking up a current discussion, the introduction to the conference held in Leuven 2003 has encouraged us to look at the late medieval town from the perspective of symbolic communication. Although having been applied thoroughly on the early and high Middle Ages, this research paradigm still provides a chance for historians to face the diversity of late medieval sources.² The relation between tradition and innovation, the flexibility of participants and spectators, or the open structures of civic rituals are addressed here. Additionally, we have to consider the hermeneutic dimension hinted at in the introduction: when can a ritual be...

  6. LE ROI ET SON DOUBLE: A ROYAL ENTRY TO LATE-MEDIEVAL ABBEVILLE
    (pp. 43-64)
    Katell LAVÉANT

    Although numerous mentions of royal entries in the 15thand 16thcenturies in northern France have been preserved, as well as many descriptions of these events, very few texts of the plays performed during these entries remain. This is a problem when we want to study symbolic communication in this context, since we can usually rely only on the descriptions of the settings, of the subject of the plays, and of the reaction of the spectators if recorded, but not on the content of the texts. In many cases, we have therefore only external elements to understand what symbolic communication...

  7. BALANCING TRADITION AND RITES OF REBELLION: THE RITUAL TRANSFER OF POWER IN BRUGES ON 12 FEBRUARY 1488
    (pp. 65-82)
    Jacoba VAN LEEUWEN

    In late medieval Flemish towns a new municipality was elected and installed yearly. This ritual transfer was a statutory act of great political importance, since it had to demonstrate the legal foundations of power in the town. Recent research has dealt with this ritual in Hanseatic, French, Italian and Swiss towns.² In his study on urban norms and values, Isenmann has underlined the importance of this ritual in urban life, when he stated that: ‘the festivities celebrating the inauguration of a new council, were the most ostentatious and legally binding manifestation of the unity of the citenzenry’.³ But the question...

  8. GIVING BY POURING: THE FUNCTION OF GIFTS OF WINE IN THE CITY OF LEIDEN (14TH-16TH CENTURIES)
    (pp. 83-100)
    Mario DAMEN

    In 1520-1521 Albert Dürer made a journey through the Netherlands. In a note-book he registered accurately his encounters and the presents he exchanged. In Antwerp, for example, he dined sumptuously with some painters and their wives. After dinner, a messenger from the city council arrived and he handed over four jugs of wine to Dürer saying that it was a gift in honour of the guest to show the city’s good intentions. Dürer thanked the messenger and offered him his services.¹ The wine did not only function as a token of honour but also to put the visitor in the...

  9. NEGOTIATING AND ESTABLISHING PEACE BETWEEN GESTURES AND WRITTEN DOCUMENTS: THE WALDMANN-PROCESS IN LATE MEDIEVAL ZURICH (1489)
    (pp. 101-124)
    Michael JUCKER

    In spring 1489, a violent revolt took place in Zurich and its domains. Hans Waldmann, who had been mayor since 1483, was accused of bribery and of selling out Zurich’s interests for huge sums of money. He was also accused of seducing the citizen's women and forging documents. These accusations and tensions between Zurich and its territory finally led to Waldmann’s decapitation on the 6thof April. During and after the conflict, Swiss ambassadors came to Zurich several times and tried to intervene, negotiate the peace and calm the tumultuous situation. The unfolding of this conflict and its settlement will...

  10. REGISTER
    (pp. 125-127)