"Der Hof wird genennet, wo sich der Fürst aufhält."1 The court was a social collective, at the centre of which was the prince. The physical presence of the prince and the presence of the courtiers at the "court" was as indispensable as the concrete conditions under which the prince and his entourage acted were decisive. Sites and spaces were thus among the necessary prerequisites of princely forms of rule and life. To speak of "courtly spaces" thus implies understanding the actions of the prince and the world of the court as being dependent on sites and spaces.2
Even though the emergence of permanent, urban places of residence must be viewed as a characteristic feature of the late-medieval period and the early modern period, in this period the lifeworld of the prince was not restricted to the residence city with its various architectural and institutional features. In addition to the city, routes, areas and sites in the territory of the prince played a decisive role in the exercise of power and in general courtly life.3 Thus, those spatial areas and sites within the territory of a prince that were part of this lifeworld due to the meanings that were attached to them and their use can be understood as "spaces of courtly display". They were defined by the real or emblematic presence of the prince, his family and his entourage. In this sense, a high degree of significance can be attributed to them in the context of princely repraesentatio.
The formation of cultural, and of communicative and ceremonial patterns that were used in the design of the castle, the city and the territory in the early modern period was based on traditions that varied considerably between the European countries and ultimately came from the Middle Ages.4 By contrast, the aesthetic principles employed in the design of the courtly lifeworld from the late-15th century – and which remained valid up to around 1800 and beyond in some cases – were strongly influenced by innovations that only emerged after the Middle Ages. A canon of forms and programmes was established which gained recognition beyond the regional level and which resulted in a lasting and intensive transfer of cultural achievements between European courts. What was now new was the changed and heavily emphasized reference to models from classical antiquity, which in the display of princely authority set decisive norms for just and good rule in addition to Old Testament and medieval models. The use of previously unknown media (the printing of books and images) was another innovation. These played an important role in the dissemination of information about events at the courts, in the formulation of claims to status and educational attainment, as well as the popular dissemination of events and works of courtly culture.5 In the context of an international courtly public, they served to mark social and political achievements that had been attained or at least asserted.
Aesthetic and technological innovations accompanied princely display of status in a way that – in the context of an ever increasing competition for status – led to a standard of cultural attainment that the "new" dynasties in particular had to measure up to. The first examples of this culture of princely display – which were important for the following generations – emerged at the courts of Italian princes in the 15th and 16th centuries, whose activities served as examples to courts around Europe. A court culture emerged that was universally recognized and strongly influenced by humanism, and which incorporated both elements of the traditional military habits of the princes and new norms of education (arma et litterae). The traditional model of a ritualistic, both actual and symbolical appropriation of the territory and the city by the prince (homage, obeisance) were now overlaid with mythology and allegory based on the example of classical antiquity. There was a similar change in courtly celebrations and princely divertissements. In the case of celebrations, there was an increasing diversification in terms of content and aesthetics in accordance with the demands of the various dynastic and political occasions. The integration of the various architecturally designed courtly spaces into the ritualized sequences of action of the ceremonials was central. These spaces encompassed the city and the territory, as well as the core area of the court and the often hierarchically subdivided castle complex in the residence city.
In the area of architecture and interior design, this led to entirely new forms, which came from Italy, and subsequently France and the northern Netherlands and Holland, and were adopted by the ruling houses of Europe, thereby gaining international recognition. In the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, older traditions from the late-medieval period continued to exert influence for a long time. New, "antique" architectural elements and programmes were initially only employed in individual instances. It was not until the early-17th century that the new norms were universally acknowledged and adopted at the German courts (for example, at the Munich court of Maximilian I (1573–1651)). As regards courtly architecture and art in the various territories of the Holy Roman Empire, there was a very high degree of variability regarding the orientation towards foreign models and the adherence to traditional forms. These orientations and fashions remained dependent on the political, dynastic, cultural and religious interests pursued by the respective courts and decision-makers.
The Territory as a Courtly Space
The prince secured his rule over the territory not only through the use of military and police instruments and the development of an administrative system. His physical and also demonstrative present in the territory was an important, indispensable part of the communication between the territorial ruler and the various classes of his subjects. In this sense, the courtly "public" was not limited to the residence city of the prince. Visiting and using the various sites in a territory gave shape to the space over which the prince exercised his rule. The area of a prince's territory was coterminous with the sum of his sites. It was not until the latter part of the early modern period that the concept emerged of a space of rule whose area was defined by its borders. Up to then, borders were relevant from a military perspective as "lines in space". Apart from that, from the ceremonial and communicative perspective borders were perceived as border sites, at which the diplomatic envoys negotiated, the future consort (Fürstin) was received, or an arriving foreign diplomatic mission was met.6
The architectural "occupation" of the territory by means of stately buildings included the hunting castles used by princes, the external appearance of which was designed accordingly, as well as official buildings, which performed an important function in the emerging princely state and which could serve as accommodation for the prince while he was on his travels. The temporary transfer of some of the duties from the residence city and the court to castles elsewhere in the territory was very clearly in the medieval tradition of peripatetic rule. While from the 16th century onward there was an increasing concentration, and spatial and temporal fixing of important tasks of territorial rule in the residence city, in some German territories the courtly practice remained strongly defined by a mobility that made use of the castles in the vicinity of the residence city. At the courts in electoral Saxony (Dresden), electoral Brandenburg (Berlin, Potsdam) and in the dukedom – and subsequent electorate – of Bavaria (Munich) as in other smaller territories (for example Speyer with Bruchsal), "residence landscapes" emerged. Alternatives emerged where a polycentric territorial structure was a dominant feature. The shift in residence meant that the capital of the territory had no residence that was currently in use. It was replaced by a new place of residence with a new residence palace, for example in Aschaffenburg (Mainz), Bonn (Cologne), Ludwigsburg (Stuttgart) and Bruchsal (Speyer).
Parallel to these phenomena was the courtly hunt, which involved the construction of appropriate hunting castles. It was an integral part of courtly culture, which predominantly – though not exclusively – occurred outside the residence city. From the end of the Thirty Years' War, the "divertissement" of the hunt played an increasingly important role. The perception and use of large natural spaces that were central to these events determined in a striking way the sequence of the hunts and the role played by the hunt participants. At the same time, the sight of the luggage and supplies of the hunting party trundling over land to reach a hunting castle or a hunting reserve was also a clear demonstration of princely power and culture in the eyes of the population, who were excluded from participation in the hunt itself. The same applies for the "pleasure palaces" that were not used as hunting castles, and which for the purposes of a country escape near the residence city could be reached on horseback or by coaches, or by boat along rivers, lakes and canals. In spite of all the freedom from the strictures of courtly life in the residence city that was typical of such occasions, the behaviour of the court society remained strongly influenced by the norms and patterns of class, which demanded that one always pay attention to the outward impression that one makes on members of one's own court and representatives of foreign courts. In this way, natural spatial features could gain importance not only in the context of princely leisure culture, but also in the context of political acts, for example, when treaty negotiations or courtly ceremonials were deliberately moved to a border between two territories and were staged accordingly. In this case, the border, as the external marking of a territory, was part of a complex act, the symbolical significance of which was clearly understood by everyone involved, and which was thus intended to create a current and a lasting effect through the use of graphical media.
The City as a Courtly Space
The residence city as the centre of territorial princely rule in the early modern period was a settlement form that should be understood in its totality as a sign and expression of princely rule. The view (veduta) of a city of a prince and from the 17th century also its plan could be employed graphically in the portrait of a prince and thus become an attribute of rule. Such depictions always reduced the complexity of a princely city to a small number of characteristic and topographical features or striking aspects. However, in the reality of the daily routine of the city and the court, the residence city was defined by a multiplicity of different spaces with diverging functions and with different architectural forms. The castle, as the courtly centre of the residence city, always remained of central importance, along with the buildings and zones of the city that were attached to it, which played their role in the life of the court and in the administration of the territory. The citizenry and the court were the two poles towards which the city infrastructure was oriented. From the perspective of the courtly lifeworld, the city provided the spaces which the prince and his court used to live in, and also to display his authority and for communication. These spaces could be part of the castle complex, but could also be in the city or even outside the city. This was the case in particular with gardens and festive spaces, which in individual cases could also be moved to squares within the city.
In addition to these topographically fixed sites and zones, there were routes along which the court moved within the city. These were important in particular for ceremonial entrances into the city and ceremonial exits from the city.7 The arrangement of the streets and squares created the impression of a city belonging to the prince, and in general served to demonstrate the ruler's splendour. Particular attention was paid to the city gates, which as sites of passage connected the interior and the exterior of the city. In particular, people entering the city should perceive the vocabulary of architecturally and artistically shaped signs of authority and their iconography, which referred to the ruler of the city. As part of the city's fortifications belt, these gates were also intended to demonstrate princely and territorial strength (fortitudo).8 Similar to the medieval period, in the early modern period the city gates marked ceremonially important sites. When the prince was being ceremonially accompanied back into the city on his return (Einholung)9, the city submitted to him by presenting him with the key to the gate. High-ranking visitors were also greeted in a special way there, for example, by a cannon salute.10
Apart from the ceremonial entrances of the ruler of the city and the visits of high-ranking persons, it was primarily the courtly festive culture that incorporated not only the castle complex but frequently also the spaces within the city into the action on various occasions. This occurred not only to enable a greater spatial elaboration of the various festive events. Similar to ceremonial actions at sites in the ruler's territory or outside the city, the festive events on the streets and squares of the residence city made it possible to present the city itself to the members of one's own court and also visitors as a part of the princely display of power. Some occasions veritably demanded the inclusion of the city in the ceremonial. This was the case in particular with weddings and funerals that were of dynastic importance. As the burial site was usually outside the city, the funeral procession through the city represented an important element of courtly funeral culture. Such occasions were always used to symbolically represent the position of the deceased, his family or his court. On these occasions, sometimes the interior of city buildings were incorporated into proceedings. Like the main church and the city hall, these buildings were defined through use by the territorial ruler as much as through use by the citizenry and the patricians.11 Important ceremonial events involving the emperor were sometimes held on the large squares in the imperial cities.
The "courtly aesthetic" of the ceremonials12 with their respective occasions always made use of the features of the city with their spatial and architectural aspects. But in particular those celebrations that accompanied an actual occasion (baptism, wedding, burial etc.) were not limited to this. There was always a transformation of the spaces through the installation of ephemeral architectural features. The various artistic disciplines were always employed, which allegorically commented on the ceremonial core of the proceedings, and also accompanied it with the greatest visual splendour, which was also heightened as the event unfolded. While the tableaux vivants ("living pictures") of late-medieval festive events were closely linked with the iconography of Christian salvation and concepts of virtue, the festive elements of the early modern period, which referenced classical mythology, had the same point of departure with regard to staging practices, but they were able to allegorically highlight the "heroic" character of the participants in the action and the architectural and allegorical apparatus involved (ceremonial portals, columns, illuminations, etc.).13 This occurred on the squares and streets of the residence city, and thus at individual sites and along specifically chosen routes. Fireworks were ignited outside the castle, fireworks pantomimes were staged on the river outside the castle, and tournaments and hunts were held on the large squares in the residence city. An example of a particularly elaborate allegorical staging was the "Aufzug der Sieben Planeten und des Nimrod" (procession of the seven planets and the nimrod) in 1678 in Dresden, which Elector Johann Georg II (1613–1680) had arranged to mark the occasion of his meeting with his two brothers and which proceeded through the streets of the city.14
Always at such events, the city and its environs appeared as an extension of that which had emanated from the person of the prince and his family, and from the prince as the territorial ruler. The centre of these events was always in the castle. Thus, the castle and the city were in a relationship of mutual dependence. At the same time, everything pointed to the overwhelming dominance of the castle in this relationship. This also expressed itself in the fact that during the 17th and 18th centuries there was a trend towards a withdrawal from the city in the ceremonial and festive activities of the courts in some German territories. The transfer of the dynastic burial site from the parish church of the city to the princely castle chapel can also be understood as a withdrawal from the city. This occurred at a number of residences in central Germany with the corresponding consequences for the funeral culture, as the funereal ritual was now concentrated in the narrower castle district.
The Castle Complex and its Courtly Spaces
The prince's castle with its several buildings, its garden complex and provisioning areas was the centre of the lifeworld of the prince and the court. Even its topographical location at the edge of the city was an indication of its special status within ritual actions, which could be further emphasized by architectural features such as moats, walls, fortifications, towers and bridges. The town-planning characteristics of the castles and their specific orientation towards their urban surroundings could be integrated into the ceremonial and festive forms. Axial and symmetrical layouts played a role in this, as did spatial and architectural connections and separations, which were employed to segment the sequence of activity. From a ceremonial perspective, the whole of the city was hierarchically divided just like the castle complex. This defined the everyday life of court as well as the special events of ceremonials and festivities. The living quarters of the prince and his family were located at the centre of the castle complex. They were the destination of the ceremonial activities, and the spaces and zones of the festivities were grouped around them. The celebrations that accompanied and surrounded the ceremonial (of an Einholung, a baptism or a wedding, for example) remained separate from the core of the ceremonial, which occurred in the audience rooms or bed chambers. This was where the direct encounter between princes took place; this was where offspring were born, where the marriage was consummated, and where members of the ruling family died. The ritual actions in these rooms were never or – in the case of the audience room – seldom depicted in graphical form. By contrast, what was described and recorded for posterity in graphical form was the stations on the way to the territorial ruler and, in particular, the public celebrations that accompanied the occasion.
Similar to a ceremonial entrance into the city, in the castle it was also individual sites and barriers, and the sequence of different rooms that defined the route to the prince. With increasing proximity to the prince, the spatial units, the appointment of the halls and rooms, and the courtly personnel, for whom the Hofordnungen ("orders of court") specified codes of behaviour and the places they were allowed to be, became more differentiated.15 This interplay between architecture on the one hand and the social structure of the courts on the other expressed itself in the "distribution" of the castle buildings.16 The entire castle complex with its various subdivisions (forecourt, courtyard, central building, garden, etc.) developed on the basis of late-medieval patterns into building units and units of space with increasingly differentiated and increasingly clearly divided sequences of spaces. The rationale of early-modern castle planning and castle construction resulted in the emergence of typologically definable construction complexes (four-winged complexes, three-winged complexes, and other variants). Strict patterns of design applied for these complexes, both as regards the interior and the exterior, which aimed at a synthesis of classical and "modern" forms. The architectural "order" of the castle complexes, which manifested itself in the floor plan as well as in the design of the facades and the interior design, thus became part of the "order" of the court as a whole. In the case of some castles, this remained tied to the historically-determined, to a degree "unordered" aspects of the older parts of the castle. For the new castle buildings, by contrast, the system underlying the complex as a whole and its parts became a characteristic of the period.
The arrangement of the rooms and the communications passages in the castle was both symmetrical and hierarchical. The order of court life corresponded to the geometrically defined system in the floor plan and elevation. The path from the outside leading through the castle was clearly marked by means of architectural elements and room sequences: from the gate across the courtyard to the entrance, from the vestibule along the stairs to the halls and living quarters. In close proximity to the ruler, in the living quarters, the sequences of rooms became more differentiated, the rooms became increasingly smaller and more elaborately designed. The path of the ceremonial ended in the audience rooms or bed chambers after passing the antechambers. However, the Kabinett (study) and the degagements17 were excluded from the ceremonial.18
The architectonic means employed aimed to vary the size of spaces, and to use separating and connecting elements. The sequence of rooms was always bound to the positioning of the portals and doors, which as wall opening prescribed the ritual path. Their positioning in the overall layout of a storey and their individual design (for example, paintings or reliefs above them – so-called overdoors) served to mark the way in graphical form. They could serve as a visual orientation aide for someone entering the room, and at the same time aimed at a sense of perspective in the perception of space. In this way, the path to the prince was staged by means of architectural elements, and decorated with paintings and sculptures.
The architectonic structures, and painted and sculpted decorative elements had to serve their purpose in the everyday life of court, on special ceremonial occasions and within the culture of courtly festivities. In the everyday life of the court, norms of etiquette applied that could be flexibly adapted to the respective circumstances. The same applied to the use of the castle spaces for courtly festivities. In this case, it was primarily the large halls that were used in various ways and which might also be specially decorated and arranged for an occasion. However, for the "Große Herren" (great rulers)19 ceremonial occasions demanded a set and repeatedly updateable spatial structure, which from the early-17th century at the latest was accepted and employed throughout the entire courtly world of Europe, and which in a decisive way defined the repertoire of ceremonial behaviour. The syntax and semantics of ceremonial communication and spatial structures were mutually interconnected. All of the participants in the ceremonial were bound into a structure of different genres of signs, the content of which was depicted in and through the actions of the participants.20
The semantics of the signs was always dependent on the place where the action occurred. In particular, architectural transitional zones and their use (doors, stairs, gates, etc.) marked ceremonial reception points, and thus also sites where admission could be granted or denied, and at which the order of entry ("precedence") determined the rank of the participants. Within a ceremonially usable sequence of rooms, each possessed its own quality, which determined the social position of those who moved about in it.21 This applied to the princely visitors and hosts as well as the holders of important offices at court, who during a reception had to be in separate spaces.22 Within the reception ceremonial, the ritual centre – the audience room – was defined by the behaviour of the prince. Hierarchical signs (throne, baldachin, etc.) marked his place in the room. His bodily movements within the room (approaching someone, remaining seated, etc.) made this a space of action, in which spatial elements (being elevated by means of steps, proximity and distance) were read as signs of social qualities.23 Here in the spatial centre of the ceremonial, the aura of the prince unfolded.
The empty spaces outside the castle, the internal courtyard, all the large rooms in the interior of the castle, as well as the gardens and other buildings in the castle complex (equestrian hall, ballroom, etc.) could play an important role in courtly festivities. At some courts, the castle courtyard was used for the holding of fireworks events or for jousting tournaments. The construction of separate buildings for festive events (Festbauten) and tournament grounds – like the ones that were constructed in the palace garden in Stuttgart in the late-16th century – were an early indication of the trend towards dispensing with the citizenry of the city as an audience at courtly festivities.24 The Zwinger in Dresden (constructed 1711–1728) was the most famous example in the Holy Roman Empire of a "Staats-, Pracht- und Lustgebäude" (stately, resplendent and pleasure building),25 which in addition to its other functions as an orangery and collection building also performed functions during the holding of large festive occasions. And the gardens were also always integrated into the large courtly festivities in a prominent fashion.
From the perspective of ceremonials and festivities at early modern courts, the distinctive characteristic of courtly spaces lies in the fact that they were assigned different patterns of action and functions. Each space could be used for different purposes. The decisive factor was that the semantics of the actions was bound to the site of the action and the corporeality of the participants in the action. The performance of the actions, which were subject to the rationale of status and power, reflected both the concrete occasion – for the sake of which the participants was acting together – and the respective balance of political and legal entitlements, which was negotiated beforehand. As the courtly actions – like every action – occurred in a temporal and spatial context, it was the movements of the participants in the action that created the meaning of the ceremonials.26 For the individual, specifically-created sequences of actions, it was sites of the actions – which were connected to each other within the ritual movements – that were important.
The space that surrounded the ceremonial participants was anything but homogenous. It was hierarchically oriented towards the centre of the actions. This was where the princes and the representatives of the city authorities acted. This space could include other people as ceremonial participants, who were in close proximity to the ruler, but also at a distance from him. To date, the most nuanced attempt to define the ceremonial space is that of Michail A. Bojcov (*1961).27 He differentiates between the "interior" and the "exterior", and the "ancillary space" (Nebenraum) of a ceremonial. The existence of the "interior" was directly connected to the ceremonial sequence.28 It consisted of different units, the sequences of action. Of course, the ceremonial practice required the topographical features of the territory, of a city or of a castle. But it was not the individual sites that defined the action.29 Rather, it was the symbolical actions that gave the individual sites meaning in the performance of the ceremonial. It was only in the ceremonial action that a site or a building gained a meaning that was constitutive for the semantics of the ceremonial. This understanding of courtly communicative spaces cannot therefore approach the topic from the perspective of the specific, topographical qualities of the sites. Rather, ceremonial acts and their performance sites must be defined with reference to the bodies of the princes and their actions. The centre of the ceremonial interior space was often specially emphasized. Thus, a baldachin and a bodyguard could both protect the body of the prince and place emphasis on it.
This "interior" of the ceremonial was surrounded by a very ordered "exterior", in which individuals or groups of people acted, who formed a transition between those who participated in the ceremonial and the prince's subjects. This occurred because the realization of the ceremonial actions required the specific features of the spaces and sites, which were incorporated into the performance of the actions in a rule-bound way as stages and settings. The outer circle consisted of the masses of the "people", of those who were not directly involved, of spectators. This "ancillary space" of the ceremonial was a "colourful space" (Bojcov). It stood in contrast to the order of the interior. It had to acknowledge the necessity of the later to uphold and adhere to rules, but it did not have to integrate these rules.
The forms and patterns of action of the participants in the ceremonial and the architectural context were thus mutually referential.30 For the historically specific form of courtly actions and spaces, the decisive factor was that they were connected to the physical presence of the participants and thus to their corporeality and visibility. As "corporeal rituals" (Leibrituale), the ceremonials could make the entire body "a medium of expression".31 In his "Europäisches Hof-Ceremoniel" of 1715, Gottfried Stieve (born 1664) included under ceremonial "Generaliter alles dasjenige, was man ratione 1. Der Stellung des Leibes … 2. Der Kleidung … 3. Gehens, Sitzens und Stehens … zu thun gewohnet, oder genötiget ist …".32 Bodies, clothes, insignias, architectural elements, texts, stagings, all works and actions that were part of the ritual sequences can thus be understood in this sense as "präsenzstiftende Symbole", as "eine besondere Form der durch Sichtbarkeit suggestiv verstärkten Ordnungs-'Magie'".33
A multitude of media and forms of staging were developed and employed in the early modern period to aesthetically emphasize the ceremonial participants and the space in which they acted. The synaesthetic effects that were achieved were based on the one hand on the high level of professional competence of the craftsmen, artists, literati and musicians involved. They were also based on the necessity to make the body of the prince and with it his entire court act, and thus become visible "wie auf einer Schaubühne …, da sie von jedermann können gesehen werden".34 In the early modern period, the architectural and in the broadest sense artistic arrangement of these courtly spaces was – in contrast with the medieval period – bound to a specific vocabulary of forms whose semantics was based on models from classical antiquity (triumphal arches and arrangements of columns as expressions of pathos, repertoires of mythological images). This was employed both in the permanent form of city gates and castle buildings, as well as in an ephemeral way in the festive events. The "high style" of architecture employed was intended to support the decorum of the spatial contexts used in the ceremonial. Furthermore, it was an element of a strategy that employed architectural elements and ensembles as princely memoria beyond the ceremonial occasion.