The church festival possessed style because of its liturgy. In a beautiful communal social gesture the church festivals always managed to give moving expression to a lofty idea. The sacred dignity and noble stateliness of the ceremonies were not destroyed even by the most extreme overgrowth of festive details, which bordered on the burlesque. But from where were court festivals to obtain style? On which conception was it to be based? —The answer could be none other than the chivalric ideal, because the entire life of the court was based on it. Was the chivalric ideal tied to a style, to a liturgy, so to speak? Indeed; everything related to the act of bestowing knighthood, the rules of orders, tournaments, préséance, hommage, and service, the entire game of the kings at arms, heralds, coats of arms, constituted the style. To the degree the court festival was based on those elements, it most decidedly possessed in the eyes of contemporaries a greatly elevated style. Strong sensitivity to the stylish festive air of the ceremonial procedure frequently comes naturally to modern man, independent of all the awe with which all matters aristocratic or monarchic are seen. How much more so it must have been for those who were still captivated by the delusion of that chivalric ideal whenever they encountered the pompous display of costumes with their long trains and glittering colors!
But court festivals aspired to more. They wanted to present the dream of the heroic life in its extreme form. This is where the style failed. The entire apparatus of knightly fancy and splendor was no longer filled with real life. Everything had become much too literary, a sickly renaissance, an empty convention. The inner decay of the form of life remained hidden under the overload of glamour and etiquette. The chivalric idea of the fifteenth century revels in a romanticism that is hollow and worn throughout. And that was the source from which the court festival was supposed to derive the inspiration for its performances and presentations. How could it create a style from such a styleless, undisciplined, and stale literature as that of chivalric romanticism in its decay?
The aesthetic value of the entremets should be seen in this light: They were applied literature. Actually, this was the only way this literature could be made bearable, since in the entremets the fleeting, superficial shapes of all the colorful literary dream figures had to make room for the necessity of the material representation.
The heavy barbarian seriousness evident in all this fits well into the Burgundian court, which seemed to have lost the lighter and more harmonious French spirit through its contact with the North. All the tremendous display is taken solemnly and seriously. The great festivity of the duke at Lille was both the end and the climax of a number of banquets given by the court nobility in competition with each other. All this had started quite simply and with little expense; the number of guests and the luxury of the menus and entremets was gradually increased. By being offered a wreath by his host, a guest was designated to take his turn as successor; in this manner the knights were followed by the great lords and the great lords by the princes, all this with steadily increasing expense and stateliness, until it was finally the turn of the duke himself. But Philip intended to hold more than a splendid feast; he intended to collect vows for the crusade against the Turks for the reconquest of Constantinople, which had fallen a year earlier. This was the officially proclaimed goal of the duke’s life. To prepare for the feast, he appointed a commission with the knight of the Fleece, Jean de Lannoy, as its leader. Olivier de la Marche, too, was a member. Whenever he comes to this issue in his memoirs he becomes very solemn: “Pour ce que grandes et honnorables oeuvres désirent loingtaine renomée et perpétuelle mémoire. ” These are the words with which he begins to reminisce about those great events. The first councilors, who were closest to the duke, regu-larly attended the deliberations: even Chancellor Rolin and Antoine de Croy, the First Chamberlain, were consulted before agreement was reached where “les cérémonies et les mistères” should be held.