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The Ceremonial City

History, Memory and Myth in Renaissance Venice

Iain Alexander Fenlon


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This wide-ranging study vividly presents the major events that took place in Venice in the 1570s, culminating in a deadly outbreak of the plague that claimed one-quarter of the Venetian population. Analyzing reactions to this dramatic decade, Iain Fenlon throws fresh light on the historical machine that produced the distinct civic and cultural ethos of the city and uncovers new aspects of its urban topography, ceremony, and cultural life.

At the heart of the book is a detailed account of four historical events: the formation of the Holy League, a coalition that brought the Republic into conflict with the Ottoman Empire; the victory of that League against the Turkish fleet at the battle of Lepanto; the ceremonial welcoming of Henry III of France to the city in 1574; and the devastating plague of 1575–77. The author considers how these events, above all the victory at Lepanto, were reconfigured in the realms of memory and myth, and he describes in detail a religious matrix that provides the key to the civic ethos of the city in this era.

Yale University Press, 9780300119374, 464pp.

Publication Date: February 26, 2008

About the Author

Iain Fenlon is professor of historical musicology in the faculty of music, Cambridge, and is a fellow of King's College, Cambridge.