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Charles V in Bologna: the self-fashioning of a man and a city

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The imperial coronation of Charles V in 1530 was an exercise in self-fashioning that sought to turn the mundane into the exalted. However, in spite of everyone's high aspirations, the event turned out to be an exercise in diminution. The emperor-to-be was obliged to settle for a less grandiose ceremony performed in a city other than Rome, while the pope was obliged to forgo the honour of hosting the emperor in the capital of his spiritual and temporal realm. Admittedly, Bologna was able to bolster its self-image and present itself as a viable alternative to the Eternal City, but not without compromising some of its integrity and becoming, in part, a surrogate Rome. The refashioning of Bologna began the moment Charles V arrived, when his entry procession ignored traditional medieval processional routes and went, as ancient emperors did when returning to Rome, directly from the periphery to the forum. It then continued when some Bolognese sites were made to represent Roman sites: the basilica of San Petronio represented St Peter in the Vatican, and San Domenico represented St John Lateran. Although the ceremony signalled a crucial moment in history, not everyone viewed it with the same gravity: Pietro Bembo, for one, stayed away, preferring to enjoy the bucolic peace of his villa in the Veneto, from whence he poked fun at his Venetian friends rushing, in a sweat, to Bologna to witness the memorable event.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1999-12-01

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