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Festivities of baptism have a complex history. Largely present in the religious practice of the Middle Ages, they showed publicly, and well beyond the circle of kinsmen (with some extreme variant) the social networks that had been created by the baptismal rite, or that pre-existed but were reinforced by the rite. In this way, they made effective, both between the parties involved and towards third parties, the ties that were being formalized. As many other manifestations of the mixing of the religious and the social spheres in Medieval Christianity, baptismal festivities (baptismal lunch, exchange of gifts between godparents and guests; etc.) were confronted with a wide offensive against them since the end of the Middle Ages and until xixth century. This is particularly true in the areas affected by the Reformation and the Catholic Reformation, where religious authorities seemed to be animated by similar intentions (on this topic at least). Having survived quite easily to this offensive, baptismal festivities enjoyed a revival during xixth century, when the religious control over social and political life became feebler, and when began the rise of a bourgeoisie hungry for familial ceremonies. This revival had characteristics at the same time similar, and different, to ancient baptismal festivities. Joining the well-known movement of re-orientation within the intimate sphere characterizing the social elite, baptismal festivities of the Contemporary Age lost the communitarian quality that characterized them during the Middle Ages and later. The social networks grounded in godparenthood re-focussed on a more restricted circle, where kin and close friends predominated.


Guido Alfani
Vincent Gourdon
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