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The town as a stage? Urban space and tournaments in late medieval Brussels

  • MARIO DAMEN (a1)

This article discusses the material and spatial features of the tournaments on the Grote Markt, the central market square in Brussels, in the fifteenth and first half of the sixteenth century. It investigates how the tournament acquired meaning in the urban space where it was organized, and how the chivalric event in its turn altered that urban space. These Brussels tournaments, for which both archival, iconographical and narrative sources are available, show us the dynamics of an inherently courtly festival within an urban setting. Recent historiography has stressed that these tournaments, just like other urban festivals, for example joyous entries, demonstrate the submission of the town to the ruler. Indeed, the prince and his household used the public space of the Grote Markt and the facilities of the town hall to organize tournaments and festivities. However, they could not do this on their own. They needed the town government for the organization and logistics of the tournament and for its hospitality. Moreover, the town managed to put its own stamp on the architecture, both permanent and ephemeral, emphasizing the responsibilities that the duke had towards his town, as well as the long tradition of subservience and loyalty of the town to the duke.

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P. Arnade , M. Howell and W. Simons , ‘Fertile spaces. The productivity of urban space in Northern Europe’, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 32 (2002), 515–48

M.A. Meadow , ‘Ritual and civic identity in Philip II's 1549 Antwerp Blijde Incompst’, Nederlandsch Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek, 49 (1999), 3767

W. Blockmans and E. Donckers , ‘Self-representation of court and city in Flanders and Brabant in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries’, in A. Janse and W. Blockmans (eds.), Showing Status: Representation of Social Positions in the Late Middle Ages (Turnhout, 1999), 81111

A. Brown , ‘Urban jousts in the later Middle Ages: the White Bear of Bruges’, Revue Belge de Philologie et d’Histoire, 78 (2000), 315–30

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Urban History
  • ISSN: 0963-9268
  • EISSN: 1469-8706
  • URL: /core/journals/urban-history
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