Otto the great Kissing the feet of Christ

Medieval Rules and Rituals

How was power exibited? And what role did rules, regulations and rituals play. Gert Althoff is known as one of the medieval historians, who has explored these questions in detail. New book provides translations into English of his more recent contributions.

Rules and Rituals in Medieval Power Games. A German Perspective
By Gerd Althoff
Series: Medieval Law and Its Practice, Volume: 29
Brill 2019


Rules and rituals coverGerd Althoff´s new book collects fifteen of his more recent contributions, most of them previously published in German, which elucidate the functioning of prestate societies. Examples from the Frankish and later German realm (800-1200) are used to clarify how rules and political rituals governed behavior in the power games between kings, churchmen and nobles. Such rules (Spielregeln) and rituals guided public and private behavior despite the fact that they existed only as unwritten customs. The long-overlooked significance of this way of establishing order has sparked a vivid and controversial international discussion in the last decades which continues today.

The book is valuable, because it brings together the explorations of Althoff while engaging with the works of Philippe Buc and Geoffrey Koziol, both representing otherperspectives and views on how to study medieval rituals and rules. The collection of articles also offer detailed insights into the work of one of the prominent medieval historians in Germany, who has pioneered the historical anthropological study of the 10th century and the Ottonians.


Gerd Althoff, Ph.D. (1974), Münster, has been Full and Senior Professor of Medieval History at that university from 1997-2018. His many publications include Spielregeln der Politik im Mittelalter (WBG, 1997); Die Macht der Rituale (WBG, 2003); and Family, Friends and Followers(Cambridge University Press, 2009).