Civic Ritual

Sharon Strocchia

in Renaissance and Reformation

ISBN: 9780195399301
Published online May 2010 | | DOI:
Civic Ritual

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy


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Civic rituals mobilized a range of people, objects, urban spaces and notions of time in organized, sometimes scripted performances that ran the gamut from the simple to the spectacular. The goals of civic rituals were numerous and wide-ranging. They enacted hierarchies of social and political power, yet at the same time tried to promote civic harmony among disparate social groups. State pageants in particular might be staged to counteract political instability or recent upheavals, or to win the allegiance of particular groups. On occasion, these ostensibly orderly representations of power and status turned into opportunities for social groups to express grievances over specific civic policies or simply a generalized sense of discontent. Civic rituals celebrated various local foundation legends, honored local patron saints, and commemorated important political events in the life of a community. In addition, civic rites helped map a sacred topography of the city by means of processional itineraries and their placement of participants. Inspired by anthropologists, scholars of early modern Europe have recently begun to analyze the meanings and significance of these complex enactments. Their work is taking shape as an emerging interdisciplinary field called “ritual studies” that includes literature and theater, art, popular religion, anthropological studies of popular culture, the social history of the family, life-cycle rites such as weddings, baptisms and funerals, political theory, and other subfields. This bibliographic entry, which emphasizes work written by historians explicitly concerned with the civic aspects of ritual, should be considered a starting point for further investigation into a rapidly growing yet thematically diffuse area of inquiry.

Article.  4191 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy

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