Pompa in Honorem Ferdinandi, 1558


  • Jan Bažant Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic




On November 8, 1558, the Austrian Archduke, Hungarian and Bohemian king, and the newly elected Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand I, was welcomed in Prague, the capital of the Bohemian kingdom. The grandiose welcome ceremony continued the next afternoon with a theatre play with songs, fireworks, and a themed tournament. It was organized for elite guests in front of Ferdinand’s Lusthaus in the garden of Prague Castle. The political significance of the welcome ceremony and, above all, the theatre play are the themes of this paper. On November 9, 1558, when it began to get dark, Ferdinand and his whole court adjourned to the Lusthaus’ arcades. On the improvised stage, an artificial mountain with a fiery cave, representing Etna, was built. On its top, Jupiter appeared, and five enormous Giants began approaching the mountain with pieces of rock on their backs, evidently intending to rush the mountain and dethrone the supreme god. However, as soon as they neared the foot of the mountain, Jupiter hit them with lightning bolts. As soon as the Giants were destroyed, horrible-looking demons with fire coming out of their eyes, nose and mouth appeared on the stage and dragged the fallen attackers into a cave. However, monkeys were born from the slain Giants, whose leaping and dancing entertained the terrified audience. The performance was a political allegory. Just as Jupiter destroyed the Giants, Ferdinand suppressed the Bohemian estates’ revolt in 1547. The current Bohemian rebels are monkeys, the completely harmless and ridiculous descendants of the great Hussites, before whom everyone used to shake with fear in the second quarter of the fifteenth century.

Keywords: Holy Roman Emperor; theatre; Ferdinand I; Prague