The Charles V|R Experience
Thanks to surviving eyewitness accounts of Charles’s imperial coronation, we know a great deal about what transpired, and yet concrete descriptions of actual music-making are rare and not very informative. Nevertheless, it is possible to reconstruct a plausible account of much of the music at the ceremony and to describe its cultural and historical significance.

The coronation of Charles V raises questions surrounding a unified Europe, hegemony and colonialism, religious difference and tolerance, and the role of tradition in contemporaneous culture. These issues remain at the forefront of 21st-century society. Though the event occurred almost five hundred years ago, many of the questions that were at play in Charles V's coronation are still very much at play today.

Pope Clement VII

Papal Choir Member

Church Official

Church Attendee

The Charles V|R experience encourages students to engage with these issues in their historical context. Users can inhabit four different characters, each in a different location inside the Basilica of San Petronio, and each with a different role in the ceremony. These characters are Pope Clement VII, a member of the papal choir, an attendee in the nave of the church, and a church official. Each role comes with a different level of comprehension of the proceedings and the activity each character undertakes. The four roles the user can inhabit demonstrate the degree to which physical access, literacy, and overall understanding were determined by class distinctions in early modern society.
 Crowning of Charles V
During the experience, Pope Clement VII places the crown on Charles’s head, recites an oath, and conveys the imperial insignia. He understands the Latin he is reciting perfectly, and to emulate this, the text and translation of what he is saying accompanies his voice in the program. As the pope places the crown on Charles’s head or the scepter in his hand, the user can reflect on the symbolism of each object by looking at it and clicking on a footnote symbol.
The three other characters all experience different levels of understanding in regard to the ceremony. The member of the papal choir sings plainchant and complex polyphony in Latin as the ceremony progresses. He is engaged and focused on the music, while the attendee in the nave of the church cannot understand the Latin being sung. He can barely follow the experience, and his attention is therefore instead drawn to the conversations near him, the finery of the dignitaries’ garb, and the art and architecture that surround him. The church official also pays little attention to the liturgy. He alternatively looks on from one of the many side chapels in the cathedral. He marvels at the artwork and architecture that surround him and sizes up the clothing of his peers with a critical eye.
 Crowning of Charles V
The coronation mass would have been heard by many and seen directly by very few. Its sound and its location were undoubtedly its most important features. Users can encounter both from various points of view in the Charles V|R Experience.
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