Symbolic Communication in Late Medieval Towns
Mediaevalia Lovaniensia, 1 Studia 3


Edited by Jacoba Van Leeuwen
November 2006
Leuven University Press
Distributed by
ISBN: 905867522x
127 pages, Illustrated, 6¼ x 9½"
$67.50 Paper Original

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 centralization, 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 legitimize their power position.

The intensive use of rituals like theatre plays 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 organizer 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.

Introduction - Jacoba Van Leeuwen
Ritual and State-Building: Ceremonies in Late Medieval Bruges - Andrew Brown
Public Encounters between the City Council and the Episcopal Lord in Late Medieval Basel:
      Routine Jobs or Transitions in Symbolic Communication? - Christoph Friedrich Weber
Le roi et son double: a Royal Entry to Late-Medieval Abbeville - Katell Lavéant
Balancing Tradition and Rites of Rebellion:
    The Ritual Transfer of Power in Bruges on 12 February 1488 - Jacoba Van Leeuwen
Giving by Pouring: The Function of Gifts of Wine in the City of Leiden (14th-16th Centuries) - Mario Damen
Negotiating and Establishing Peace between Gestures and Written Documents:
    The Waldman-Process in Late Medieval Zurich (1489) - Michael Jucker

Medieval History

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