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Clothing as communication? Vestments and views of the papacy c.1300


This essay argues that Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303) used clothing in a highly intentional and performative manner to communicate his status and authority. His audience, however, was quite limited - essentially, the small community of those who aspired to hold or influence the power of the Holy See - and the messages conveyed were not particularly complex. Attempting a reception history of papal attire c.1300, the essay surveys remarks regarding clothing in late thirteenth- and early fourteenth-century chronicles and analyses in depth the evidence of two sources: ambassadorial reports to King James II of Aragon (1291-1327) and the De electione et coronatione sanctissimi patris domini Bonifatii pape octavi of Cardinal Jacopo Caetani Stefaneschi (c.1270-1343). A suggestive finding is that performativity, or the highly theatrical use of garments, appears to have been used by Boniface VIII to foster dissemination of simple communications across great distances.

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