Carnaval et politique au XVIe siècle : de la cohésion sociale à la subversion de l’ordre public. Le point de vue d’Erasmus Sarcerius, réformateur de Leipzig

In February 1551, Erasmus Sarcerius, a Lutheran pastor in the Reformed city of Leipzig, published two sermons whose primary goal was to gain the cooperation of the civil authorities for outlawing carnival. It was not until a century later that this call was really heeded. Such a delay hardly corresponds with the common representation of carnival as a revolutionary occasion that needed to be stifled. The fact of the matter is that both in Leipzig and in the Empire in general, carnival represented an opportunity not just for relaxation, but also for the renewal of diplomatic alliances as well as the cohesion of the civil population. This makes the authorities’ reluctance to cede to this request more understandable. So too it is actually the discourse of Erasmus Sarcerius with its political arguments that now strikes one as jarring. Sarcerius renewed his efforts against a festival increasingly decried as pagan at a moment when the nascent Protestant churches, whose “bishops” the princes were becoming, was seeking to be the incarnation of the true church, with irreproachable morals. As such, we see how it was possible for carnaval initially to be a feast of cohesion, before coming to be considered an obstacle to the public order.