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  • Botschafterzeremoniell am Papsthof der Renaissance. Der Tractatus de oratoribus des Paris de Grassi, Teil 1 und 2 ed. by Philipp Stenzig
  • Ingo Herklotz
Botschafterzeremoniell am Papsthof der Renaissance. Der Tractatus de oratoribus des Paris de Grassi, Teil 1 und 2. Edited with commentary by Philipp Stenzig. [Tradition—Reform—Innovation: Studien zur Modernität des Mittelalters, Band 17.] (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. 2013. Pp. 716, 717–1372. $182.95. ISBN 978-3-631-62611-5.)

Studies of papal ceremonies flourished during the 1970s and 1980s with Marc Dykmans and Bernhard Schimmelpfennig as the foremost scholars in the field. In recent years a group of scholars based at the University of Münster has taken up the papal ceremonial of the Renaissance and dedicated a series of publications to it. Philipp Stenzig’s monumental contribution has grown out of a Münster doctoral thesis supervised by Nikolaus Staubach, a leading figure among these researchers. When it is compared to the older investigations, differences of approach soon become obvious. Whereas Dykmans and Schimmelpfennig had been much involved with codicological and philological studies that aimed at making available the relevant texts and tried to shed light on the precise circumstances of their creation, these younger authors, seeking the historical meaning of individual ceremonial elements, prefer to interpret what was going on. [End Page 925]

As was to be expected, the prolific figure of Paris de Grassis—or Paride Grassi, papal master of ceremonies (in office 1504–28)—attracted new scholarly attention. Dykmans planned an edition of De Grassis’s ceremonial diary, but this project was not brought to completion. Twenty-five years later, such a publication would be no less desirable than it was in Dykmans’s time. Beyond writing his Diarium and a general directory of papal liturgy and ceremonial, a Ceremoniale Romane curie, De Grassis’s name is connected with a new literary genre—the tractatus—dedicated to specific aspects of the Roman ceremonial. Seven such treatises, which the author considered in the tradition of the professional writing practiced by Vitruvius and other scholars from classical antiquity, have survived. Stenzig’s focus is one on the reception of foreign oratores at the papal court. De Grassis wrote it down in a first draft by 1508/09, adding material in subsequent years. As Stenzig points out, the master of ceremonies did not intend to create a new type of ceremonial but rather a definite literary description of it, which could be used later as a manual. Since his own experience is present throughout these writings, and he continuously refers to ceremonial events he witnessed, his treatises, too, adopt traits of the ceremonial diary, thus rendering the boundaries of professional writing rather fluid.

These oratores should not be confused with the ambassadors in residence, although the latter could be referred to as oratores, procuratores, or ambassiatores. Instead, it was their task to declare the obedience of their respective senders, usually secular rulers from all over Europe or Italian city republics, in front of the newly elected pope. Due to this rhetorical performance they were called orators. In essence, their office ended with this declaration, although their presence in the papal chapel and in public consistories was tolerated thereafter. The number of orators representing an individual sovereign could vary from one to four, seven, or even a dozen. Although the ceremonial receptions of the oratores in Rome implied the recognition of the sovereignty of the ruler who had sent them, the honors displayed in their regard by the officials of the papal court changed according to the status of the sender, not to that of his envoys. The ceremonial under discussion embraced two distinct parts: first the obviatio—that is, the reception of the delegation through the familiares of the cardinals and of the pope outside the city walls. Here, De Grassis focuses on questions of who would wait where and how this cavalcade was to be composed hierarchically. This procession would lead the newly arrived to their dwelling place in the city. A few days later they proceeded from here to the Consistorium publicum in the Vatican palace where they would present their credentials, deliver their speeches, and pay homage to...


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