Shields of iron, sleeves of incredible length, and a grand feast. While these images would be common at any great Renaissance banquet from centuries ago they instead describe the present-day Renaissance Ball that took place right here at Saint Mary’s. The departments of Modern Languages and Art History, along with the Society of Creative Anachronism, hosted the St. Berthold’s Day Collegium and Feast in Hagerty Lounge on Saturday, March 29.
Students and faculty dressed in full Renaissance garb for the festivities, which included lectures on such Renaissance practices as armor, dress, music and gambling. Students boldly donned tunics of coral and blue, dresses with trains that flowed to the ground, and intricately weaved hairdos—a welcome departure from the rush-to-class-bun we too often rely on. One brave student even slipped into the ancient armor and was completely concealed by the impressive metalwork. Students tested their luck with dice and cards, indulging in bets and risks in games that appeared to be the ancestors of blackjack and Yatzhee.
After learning about the customs of the times, attendees put history into action. Dinner posed one challenge—no forks. Guests instead maneuvered their meals with spoons and hands and had to hope that the high table, which included Brothers and professors, would graciously send some delicacies their way—all in the style of Renaissance practice. The event concluded with dancing, drawing the guests out to the center of the banquet hall to show off their turns and kicks.
“The Renaissance event is an attempt to create a time portal that allows each student to enter the 15th century and experience it in first person,” said Professor Costanza Dopfel, who orchestrated the event. “The intimate sensory encounter with clothes, food, movement and music all around establishes a sense of belonging to the period that cannot be achieved solely by intellectual effort. The student can then approach the art and culture of the Renaissance as someone who has experienced it from the inside, someone who, even for a few hours, has ‘been there.’ I know that my students will not forget this event.”
When else will students have the chance to wear ornately designed gowns and brightly dyed breeches, to eat with their hands or to leap into the air like a sprite on the dance floor? The event took history out of the classroom and into the students’ lives, immersing them in the richness of the Renaissance.