Rituals, Kingship and Rebellion in Medieval Germany



This essay attempts to place the current interest in medieval rituals in historical perspective, tracing the evolution of scholarly viewpoints from the age of Ranke to the present day. It chiefly focuses on Germany and on the tenth and early eleventh centuries, a classic period in the development of German kingship and ritual, but also a period marked by numerous uprisings against kings. The essay argues that the relevant historiography can roughly be divided into three chronologically overlapping schools: a liturgical school dominant around the middle of the twentieth century, an anthropological school which emerged in the 1970s, and a post-modern school that emerged in the last decade of the twentieth century. The theories and methods embraced by each school and some of the work of some of their major figures are discussed, as well as the fundamental problems that each encountered. The essay concludes with an assessment of the current state of scholarship in the field.