Albrecht Classen

title.none: Schenk, Zeremoniell und Politik (Albrecht Classen)

identifier.other: baj9928.0411.010 04.11.10

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Albrecht Classen, University of Arizona,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2004

identifier.citation: Schenk, Gerrit Jasper. Zeremoniell und Politik: Herrschereinzuge im spatmittelalterlichen Reich. Series: Forschungen zur Kaiser- und Papstgeschichte des Mittelalters beihefte zu J.F. Bohmer, Regesta Imperii, vol. 21. Koln: Bohlau Verlag, 2003. Pp. 823. $100.00 3-412-09002-6. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 04.11.10

Schenk, Gerrit Jasper. Zeremoniell und Politik: Herrschereinzuge im spatmittelalterlichen Reich. Series: Forschungen zur Kaiser- und Papstgeschichte des Mittelalters beihefte zu J.F. Bohmer, Regesta Imperii, vol. 21. Koln: Bohlau Verlag, 2003. Pp. 823. $100.00 3-412-09002-6. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Albrecht Classen
University of Arizona

This fascinating interdisciplinary study was first submitted as a doctoral dissertation to the University of Stuttgart (advisors: Prof. Folker Reichert and Wolfgang Stuermer) and received the award of being the best dissertation accepted by the University in that year. Both the vastness of the topic dealt with and the highly impressive approach taken by the author explain the accolades. Indeed, this is a massive and yet thoroughly systematic study of a ruler's "triumphal entry," "adventus regis," "entree joyeuse" (or "entree solennelle"), or "trionfo" into a city. Schenk concentrates his investigation on the situation in the German empire during the late Middle Ages and examines the entire spectrum of elements involved in such a ceremonial entrance, discussing both the preparations and the actual process from the ruler's perspective and from the perspective of the city representatives. The royal entry was of utmost importance for all parties involved since medieval kingdom heavily relied on theatrical strategies to exert its actual power, to establish alliances, to establish contacts, and to secure its subjects' allegiance, not to mention the financial implications. Of course, Schenk is not the first one to examine this important subject matter, whether we think of Norbert Elias's or Percy Ernst Schramm's significant contributions. And as his overview of the relevant research literature indicates, his monograph belongs to an entire school of modern historical studies focusing on the medieval ruler, the court, its ceremonies, and representation, rooted in the rich tradition of nineteenth-century historiography interested in courtly ceremonies.

The unique aspect of Zeremoniell und Politik proves to be Schenk's comprehensive analysis of a vast number of relevant documents reporting about the king's entry into many different cities. He undergirds his study with specific references to performance, the theater, ritual, and the court festival (65ff.), insofar as the entry was a "cultural performance" (73) with great political significance because of the complex matrix of signs and their public reading (76).

The first chapter deals with terminological questions, the pertinent research literature, and the theoretical underpinnings. Subsequently, Schenk turns to the relevant sources for his study, their subcategories, the various archives where the most important text collections can be found, and to the actually disappointing dearth of specific documentary treatment of the ceremonial entry. He observes the important difference between clerical and lay (urban) documents, depending on where the royal entry took place and what persons were involved. In many cases the documents were only compiled in archival files, and copies were made from specific parts depending on the need for information about how to welcome a ruler. Many times a city council or individuals requested help in the preparation of the ceremonies, including gifts, speeches, clothing, bell ringing, hosting the guest and his entourage, etc., and turned to those cities where the ruler had stayed before, such as Frankfurt a.M., Nuremberg, Ulm, and Noerdlingen (an excellent schema on p. 237 illustrates the relationships and dependencies). Insofar as the documents were compiled over centuries and at many different locations, reflecting different needs and degrees of knowledge about the proper ceremonies, Schenk is in a very good position to investigate the development of an entire textual genre and to reflect upon its intricate relationship with the oral tradition.

The entire ceremony involved many different aspects, and Schenk pays attention to many of them, though an exhaustive treatment would have been impossible because of numerous different situations in the individual cities. In order to come to terms with the entire complex, Schenk projects an ideal scenario and treats the six crucial segments in astounding detail, discussing the important features and elements, and alerting us to the deviations depending on local conditions. These six phases are: 1. preparation; 2. welcoming and greeting of the ruler outside of the city gates; 3. entrance into the city and official welcome; 4. procession through the city; 5. visit of the main church; 6. hosting of the ruler. Each individual step involved many different elements, such as cost factors, selection of the representative welcoming committee, the street conditions, clothing, bell ringing, the city public, food preparation, security, gifts, speeches, entertainment, and financial negotiations. Schenk consults a wide range of relevant documents and discusses them thoroughly. In particular, he focuses on the speeches, the royal canopy, the royal insignia, and the public demand on all objects used by the ruler (spoliation). The effort, however, to utilize Freudian theory to explain this strange spoliation mostly fails to explain the phenomenon. Schenk would have done better to treat the taking of all objects not as a breaking of a taboo, but instead as a desire to partake in the royal charisma with its divine character, the "toucher royal" (see H. Weber, "Das Toucher Royal" in Frankreich zur Zeit Heinrichs IV. und Ludwigs XIII," European Monarchy 1992; not consulted here). Other aspects connected with the public ceremony, such as the duties of the urban Jews, the role of women and children, payments for the ruler's housing, the question of how many armed men were allowed into the city, the king's clothing, etc., are also considered to some extent. One issue, however, seems to be missing, unless it cannot be treated as an essential component of the official ceremony, that is, the role of prostitutes and the relevance of brothels for the king and his entourage during the visit in a city. Insofar as Schenk considers the king's stay in a city as part of the entire ceremony, however, then sexuality also would have deserved to be considered here.

Following the extensive discussion of the royal entry, the author provides a voluminous collection of primary sources from Cologne, Ueberlingen, Noerdlingen, Ravensburg, and Ulm (surprisingly, not from Nuremberg).

The extensive apparatus containing a listing of the unprinted sources, research literature, indices, and so forth, demonstrates the high scholarly value of this heavy tome. It is not surprising that the author won the award of having published the best dissertation in 2001. The present book also deserves our high praise in every respect because it fully comes to term with a fundamental aspect of medieval royalty. Despite the complexity of the matter, Schenk has succeeded in presenting his findings in a very readable and well-structured manner. This book is a model of modern historical scholarship dealing with the Middle Ages.