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The Symbolic Meaning of Sword and Palio in Late Medieval and Early Modern Ritual Entries: The Case of Seville

The Symbolic Meaning of Sword and Palio in Late Medieval and Early Modern Ritual Entries: The Case of Seville


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The Symbolic Meaning of Sword and Palio in Late Medieval and Early Modern Ritual Entries: The Case of Seville

Teófilo F. Ruiz (Department of History – UCLA)

Memoria y Civilización (MyC), 12, 2009, 13-4

Abstract

This article explores the symbolic meanings of sword and canopy as these two objects were deployed in ritual royal entries in late medieval and early modem Castile. After a brief exploration of the diverse meanings of these two symbols, their role in ritual entries, and the nature of these symbols in the ritual contexts in which they were deployed, I examine, in some comparative detail, the nature of royal entries into Seville from Ferdinand III’s iconic proto-entry in 1248 and Alfonso XI’s paradigmatic entry into the city on the Guadalquivir in 1327 to other royal and princely entries, concluding with Philip II’s ritual royal entry in 1570. In reading and analyzing these entries, I seek to emphasize, beyond the brief mention of other symbolic elements, the unique role played by sword and baldachin (palio) in the ideological imaginary of the Castilian monarchy.

In the Oxford and Webster’s English dictionaries, the word symbol is defined as something or a thing that stands, represents, or recalls something else by reason of analogy, relationship, etc’ Although symbols and, above all, symbolic language are present in everyday life and speech, they acquire special meanings when deployed in ritual performances or actions. Ritual, as Victor Turner has defined it, is “a prescribed formal behavior for occasions not given over to technological routines”^ and rituals, like symbols, also appear in a great variety of forms.


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