In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Ceremonial Entries in Early Modern Europe

  • Introduction
  • Key Sources
  • Anthologies
  • Online Resources
  • Gender

Art History Ceremonial Entries in Early Modern Europe
Jasmine R. Cloud
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 September 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 September 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920105-0179


Ceremonial entries marked urban centers across early modern Europe. Types of entries varied widely, from events celebrating a newly elected monarch to festivities honoring foreign brides’ journeys across the continent. Such entries necessitated the cooperation and planning of a huge variety of people, depended upon an interactive audience, and became multi-sensory spectacles involving poets, composers, musicians, artists and architects, theater performers, and more. Evidence with which to study entries proliferates, including manuscript sources relating plans and expenditures, graphic material making permanent the ephemeral decorations of an event, eyewitness accounts and published pamphlets or books detailing the participants, visual materials, and the official record of the day. While entries in many European territories have been studied, scholars have focused the most attention on France, Italy, and England. To a lesser extent, entrance ceremonies in the Low Countries, Germany, and Spain have received scholarly attention. Even less studied are those in Portugal, Poland, and Scandinavia. As with scholarship across humanistic fields, the study of entries has become increasingly global and concerned with issues related to gender performance. The literature on ceremonial entries in early modern Europe has exploded in recent decades, becoming a more integrative and interdisciplinary concern. This is made evident by the existence of multiple research organizations that bring together scholars of diverse disciplines and nationalities. Digitization projects have resulted in several online resources, most notably the “Early Modern Festival Books Database” and “Treasures in Full: Renaissance Festival Books from the British Library.” Thus, research in this field is becoming both easier, through increasing accessibility of online sources, and more complicated, as the secondary literature grows. What began in the realm of theater studies, because of the appearance of pageants as features of entries, has become a truly interdisciplinary field. The most common kind of publication on an entry is a short essay; these and edited volumes appear frequently in this bibliography because of the challenges of monographic examination of these multivalent events. It is important to note that ceremonial entries are only one type of ritual that shaped civic identity in the early modern period, and many anthologies contend with ephemeral events of all kinds.

Key Sources

The citations in this category are of two types: foundational sources in festival studies that provide the framework for all subsequent scholarship or indispensable publications for what their authors present in terms of bibliography and historiography. Jacquot 1956–1975 pioneered the model of producing an edited anthology after a colloquium, and its contained essays are frequently cited. While Strong 1984 and Muir 2005 (first edition published in 1997) consider rituals beyond entries, their methodologies (like that of Turner 1969) and subject matters have shaped the questions that the field contends with today, specifically issues of power relations and tensions that these ceremonies often seek to quell. The study of ceremonial entries relies heavily on primary source descriptions and documentation, and Mitchell 1979 began a wave of annotated and contextualized bibliographies. Watanabe-O’Kelly and Simon 2000 presents thousands of festival books, while Watanabe-O’Kelly 2014 makes such publications more usable and approachable. Mulryne, et al. 2004 offers more context and presents the state of the field for all types of early modern festivals, in addition to important bibliography. While DeSilva 2016 ostensibly serves to introduce a special issue of the Royal Studies Journal, it provides a brief and eminently readable historiography of a complex field. Smith, et al. 2020 suggests a new methodology for examining a common aspect of festival studies, the ephemeral creations that defined these ceremonies. Finally, McGowan 2019 is included here for its pan-European approach and as a model for the future of monographic studies.

  • DeSilva, Jennifer Mara. “Taking Possession: Rituals, Space, and Authority.” In Special Issue: Taking Possession. Royal Studies Journal 3.2 (2016): 1–17.

    DOI: 10.21039/rsj.v3i2.109

    Important synthesis of historiographical and methodological issues of rituals in general, including entries. This essay introduces the articles in this special issue of the Royal Studies Journal, but stands in its own right as an important contribution to new considerations of ritual as language, the spatial qualities of events, and furthering the use of anthropological models for scholars.

  • Jacquot, Jean, ed. Les Fêtes de la Renaissance. 3 vols. Paris: Editions du Centre national de la recherche scientifique, 1956–1975.

    Groundbreaking three-volume set of essays, each published following an international colloquium. Contributions on a wide spectrum of geography and disciplinary practice woven together by Jacquot’s introduction, launching an expansion in festival studies beyond France and Italy. Volume 1 covers fêtes from 1550–1630, the second the festival culture in the age of Charles V, and the third expands which events are considered in terms of geography and disciplinary approach.

  • McGowan, Margaret. Festival and Violence: Princely Entries in the Context of War, 1480–1635. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2019.

    DOI: 10.1484/M.EFS-EB.5.116523

    Monograph that demonstrates the future possibilities of studies on ceremonial entries. McGowan’s book examines several themes of violence and its depiction in ceremonial culture, especially in the artistic depictions associated with martial victories and subsequent celebrations. Her subjects are pan-European, allowing for a broad survey of the relationships of two seemingly contrasting forms of spectacle: violence and celebration.

  • Mitchell, Bonner. Italian Civic Pageantry in the High Renaissance: A Descriptive Bibliography of Triumphal Entries and Selected Other Festivals for State Occasions. Florence: Leo S. Olschki Editore, 1979.

    Compilation that remains valuable for its synthesis of sources on Italian entries in the early 16th century. Mitchell brings together primary printed sources with secondary studies, while also chronicling the order of events and contextualizing each ceremony. Prioritizes certain festivals over others, but remains essential for scholars of Italian entries.

  • Muir, Edward. Ritual in Early Modern Europe. 2d ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

    Extrapolation of the author’s examination of ritual in Venice to the European continent. Muir’s methodology relies upon anthropological approaches to examine rituals including receptions, advents, and triumphs. He considers the tension of these events, with an eye to the precarity of the hosting city. Second edition adds a particular focus on women’s roles in rituals and the transport of European ritual culture to New Spain.

  • Mulryne, J. R., Helen Watanabe-O’Kelly, and Margaret Shewring, eds. Europa Triumphans: Court and Civic Festivals in Early Modern Europe. 2 vols. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2004.

    Vital source for contextualizing the field, reproduction of primary sources in both their original language and English, historiography, and documents and scholarship dedicated to individual entries. Ideal for those beginning research in festival studies, as it brings together some of the most notable scholars. Their expertise facilitates familiarization with the literature and methodological approaches on entries since the mid-20th century while emphasizing lesser-studied entries, places, and texts.

  • Smith, Pamela H., Tianna Helena Uchacz, Sophie Pitman, Tillmann Taape, and Colin Debuiche. “The Matter of Ephemeral Art: Craft, Spectacle, and Power in Early Modern Europe.” Renaissance Quarterly 73 (2020): 78–131.

    DOI: 10.1017/rqx.2019.496

    Important recent contribution that broadens understanding of the historiography of ceremonies, with a special consideration of ephemeral art: its methods of creation, modern scholars’ misunderstanding of its value, and more. Associated with The Making and Knowing Project, this article mentions many entries in its analysis of cost, process, afterlives of objects, and impact on the spectator.

  • Strong, Roy. Art and Power: Renaissance Festivals 1450–1650. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984.

    Roy Strong’s publications have been foundational to all subsequent literature on early modern festivals and entries. This presents very similar information to his 1973 Splendor at Court with more robust citations. Entries are discussed throughout, particularly in the context of large-scale court festivals.

  • Turner, Victor. The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. Chicago: Aldine, 1969.

    Turner engages his source material through a study of liminality, examining society as an organism, considering dialogue and exchange and how rites effect social change. Focuses on African groups, but a fundamental source for the anthropological model for scholarship on ceremonial entries.

  • Watanabe-O’Kelly, Helen. “‘True and Historical Descriptions’? European Festivals and the Printed Record.” In The Dynastic Centre and the Provinces: Agents and Interactions. Edited by Jeroen Duindam and Sabine Dabringhaus, 150–159. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1163/9789004272095_010

    Watanabe-O’Kelly’s brief article provides an overview of the standard tropes of festival books. This essay serves as both a primer for this key genre of primary source text and as a guide to scholars examining these texts and the events they cover.

  • Watanabe-O’Kelly, Helen, and Anne Simon. Festivals and Ceremonies. A Bibliography of Works Relating to Court, Civic and Religious Festivals in Europe 1500–1800. London: Mansell, 2000.

    Indispensable volume that provides a nearly comprehensive bibliography of festival texts across three centuries in Europe and beyond (three thousand works in twelve languages). Made somewhat redundant by the Early Modern Festival Books Database.

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