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From Jacob Burckhardt's 2nd edition of the Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy; edited for this on-line publication, by ELLOPOS
Part Five: Society and Festivals
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Part Five: Society and Festivals » Equality of Classes » Costumes and Fashions » Language and Society » Social Etiquette ||| Education of the 'Cortigiano' » Music » Equality of Men and Women » Domestic Life » Festivals
It is by no arbitrary choice that in discussing the social life of this period, we are led to treat of the processions and shows which formed part of the popular festivals. The artistic power of which the Italians of the Renaissance gave proof on such occasions, was attained only by means of that free intercourse of all classes which formed the basis of Italian society. In Northern Europe the monasteries, the courts, and the burghers had their special feasts and shows as in Italy; but in the one case the form and substance of these displays differed according to the class which took part in them, in the other an art amid culture common to the whole nation stamped them with both a higher and a more popular character. The decorative architecture, which served to aid in these festivals, deserves a chapter to itself in the history of art, although our imagination can only form a picture of it from the descriptions which have been left to us. We are here more especially concerned with the festival as a higher phase in the life of the people, in which its religious, moral, and poetical ideas took visible shape. The Italian festivals in their best form mark the point of transition from real life into the world of art.
The two chief forms of festal display were originally here, as elsewhere in the West, the Mystery, or the dramatization of sacred history and legend, and the Procession, the motive and character of which was also purely ecclesiastical.
Cf. The Ancient Greece * The Ancient Rome
The Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) * The Making of Europe