Cologne’s New Medievalism

If this Condé Nast Daily Traveler article is correct, I may have to put a new definition in the old sidebar. Describing Carnival (or, rather, Rosenmontag) in Cologne, they write:

Seven thousand miles east of Rio, Carnival’s epicenter in the Teutonic lands is the Rhineland capital of Cologne, with its forbiddingly dark Gothic Cathedral and its almost medieval party-till-you-die ethic. This time of year, Cologne is the un-Germany, playing a role not unlike that of New Orleans in America–the steam valve, the free city ruled by Bacchus.

For once, the word medieval gets a positive spin. Paaar-tay! Wooooooo!

Memo to frat guys (who may or may not be preparing to celebrate Ragnar Hairy-Pants Day 2009): Toga! Toga! Toga! is out. Baldric! Hauberk! Wimple! is in.

Unfortunately, the 2009 Rose Monday parade in Cologne was several weeks ago, so you’ll have to wait until February 15th, 2010 for your next chance to get almost medieval and almost party-till-you-die like the medievals did. Until then, you’ll have to console yourself with these pictures of medieval-themed Carnival floats I stole culled from Flickr and elsewhere:*


Just to be clear on this, only a few of those are from the actual Rosenmontag parade. This is, instead, a collection of Carnival/Rose Monday/Mardi Gras/Pancake Day’s Eve floats. Several are from the Krewe of King Arthur and were made for the New Orleans parades. The most awesome ones (the top right image, for instance) come from Viareggio‘s Carnival celebration.

*Deciding what counts as “medieval” and what counts as “weird Mardi Gras stuff” proved harder than I’d expected when I came up with the clever idea of a post full of medieval carnival floats,** because the main float aesthetic (other than neon, bright colors, and semi-clad bosoms) is anachronistic pastiche. If I used my original standard, “stuff with dragons, crowns and/or jesters,” I’d have 12,000 pictures instead of 12.
**And as the old saying goes, when the going gets tough, the not-so-tough cheat, so I also included a couple of non-Mardi Gras, non-Carnivale floats from some English medieval carnivals, to fill out my little collection.***
***And, for the record, though Hulk Hogan is dressed as a gold-plated Roman gladiator (ala Ridley Scott), he’s standing on a medievalish throne. On its own, a throne isn’t medieval enough–but a throne with Hulk Hogan on it is so medieval it busts through the other side of medieval and becomes modern again.****
****Or, possibly, I just think Hulk Hogan is hilarious. You be the judge. That’s him as King Bacchus at Mardi Gras in New Orleans in 2008.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Isaac

    Baldric! Hauberk! Wimple!

  • Prof. de Breeze

    What’s ironic is that, since the collapse of the Cologne archive building on 3/3, these pictures may represent all that’s left of the medieval world in Cologne.

  • Matthew Gabriele

    Dude, is Hogan a regular attendee? Screw the medieval, I’m all about the Hulkster. Oh yeah!!!

  • Nathan

    Real medieval people could be anachronistic, at least in one direction. They ought to have been better equipped than we to remember the glory of Rome, being at only a slight remove. The entire pre-renaissance past is available to medievalist revelers — at least, if you must be strict about it, what real medievals could be presumed to remember of it or imagine about it.

  • Got Medieval

    I’m pretty sure it’s impossible for anyone to be anachronistic in both directions, unless we allow for time travel.

  • Nathan

    Who doesn’t allow for time travel?

    I’ve seen lots of movies that were anachronistic in both directions, and so, I daresay, have you.

  • Notorious Ph.D.

    What Prof. de Breeze said: it’s a sad bit of irony that this Cologne-specific medievalism should come out this week, of all weeks. Sad news, indeed.

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