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  • Das Papstzeremoniell der Renaissance. Texte—Musik—Performanz
  • Volker Reinhardt
Das Papstzeremoniell der Renaissance. Texte—Musik—Performanz. By Jörg Bölling, [Tradition-Reform-Innovation: Studien zur Modernität des Mittelalters, Band 12.] (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. 2006. Pp. 330. $62.95 paperback.)

In the modern period, matters of ceremony are matters of power. The papacy around 1500 is a very good example of this. Extremely power-conscious popes, such as Alexander VI and Julius II, regularly had strong disputes with their ceremonial masters, Johannes Burckard and Paris de Grassi. This was particularly the case when these ceremonial masters attempted to push through ideas about appropriate representation, which, for whatever reason, their employers often rejected. To be more precise, ceremonial goings-on of all forms, be it in the Sistine Chapel or at other papal locations loaded with meaning, were carefully planned operations, which say a lot about the self-appraisal of the official and even about the importance of the office itself and its traditions. But what exactly do they say? To decode the semantics of the sacred acts in their entirety was possible even in the time in which the events took place only for a small group of initiated people. But nevertheless, for a much wider circle, the stage, props, as well as the manifold olfactory and auditory effects must have been, at least generally, understandable. It is a complex, multi-disciplined exercise to attempt to identify and piece together the meaning of these acts after nearly half a millennium. The author seeks to locate the basis for such a reconstruction in a knowledgeable piece of research, which is carefully bolstered with evidence. One focus of his interest lies on the basic texts of the ceremonies. Painstaking comparison of texts, combined with sharp analysis of sources, unveils Augustinus Patritius (besides Burckard and de Grassi) as one of the great "directors" of papal rites. In addition, the musical dimension of performances of this kind is investigated in [End Page 149] depth. Over the course of the decades in question, music developed a steadily more important role. Increasingly well-educated (and better paid) musicians interpreted a repertoire which gradually developed a standard character. Rome in this case was everything but an exception. Music, in general, gained a high status at the Italian courts, above all at Ferrara.

However clearly thorough the work discussed here may be, it is rare that it goes beyond stating the situation or considering the material. To put this differently, the papal ceremonies are conceivable as "event" but not as an instrument for winning prestige. And the big question remains totally unanswered: what relationship existed between the developing formalization of the ceremonies and the increasingly crass departures from the norms made by the popes? This is despite the fact that hypotheses present themselves. One could suppose that the need for a colorful ceremony would be all the greater if the popes distanced themselves from the interests and requirements of the office through extreme nepotism, corruption, and the waging of wars. This would be analogous to the great frescoes of the time, which are probably approximated best by the celebratory Masses held in the Sistine Chapel as "living images." To conclude, this piece of work is full of facts and details, but is a little short in conclusions. It will provide a sound basis for future investigations to build on.

Volker Reinhardt
Université de Fribourg, Switzerland


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pp. 149-150
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