Mardi Gras (In Italy, as requested)

Mjccmc01 at Mjccmc01 at
Tue Feb 20 14:23:23 PST 1996

In Italy, Mardi Gras, or carnival, as it was called (which is from the Latin
"carne vale,: or farewell to meat, indicating a period of fasting to follow)
was a much moer elaborate affair in Italy.   The custom was to go to the
festivities masked, and as the years progressed the masks grew more and more
elaborate.  Originally, this festival was a time to present miracle and
mystery plays; however, as the Renaissance began to grow, the pageants began
to reflect less religious themes, and the pageantry became the sole purpose,
with no pretense made at religious education.  In Rome, the custom evolved of
emulating the triumphs of Classical Roman Conquerors, complete with conquered
kings in chains, senators, chariots, wagons loaded with "spoils of war," etc.
 In the Carnival of 1500, Cesare Borgia celebrated the triumph of Julius
Caesar (typically subtle).

In Venice, the festivities were no less grand; there are references to being
unable to even see the water for all the decorated boats.  Mock tournaments
(horses and all)  were held in St. Mark's.  Interestingly, Noah was a popular
figure in Venetian decorations.

Florence, however, outshone them all during the Renaissance.  Allegorical and
fantastic ceratures paraded through the street.  Most of the guilds of  the
city were pledged to provide at least ten chariots.  Lorenzo de'Medici  (The
Magnificent) wrote (or is credited with) several of the songs sung by various
groups of marchers, and various collections of these are fairly easy to find.

General reading on Italian society:  Gene Brucker, Ed., The Society of
Renaissance Florence, A Documentary Study; Burckhardt, Jacob, The
Civilization fo the Renaissance in Italy.  New York: The Modern Library,
1954; Henisch, Bridget Ann, Fast and Feast: Food in Medieval Society.
 University Park:  Pennsylvania State University Press, 1976.

With best wishes for a happy Mardi Gras, Carnival, and Shrove Tuesday, I'll
leave you with a favorite, in translation:

Youth is beautiful, but it flies away!  Who would be cheerful, let him be; of
the morrow there is no certainty.  (Burckhardt, p. 317)



P.S. to my apprentices:  Shouldn't you two be in the library or something?

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