Fire dramas

Rytina Melchiora Küsela: alegoricky pojatý ohňostroj oslavující spojení rakouské a španělské dynastie pořádaný 8. prosince 1666 byl před Hofburgem.
Since the earliest times, fire has been one of the elements for man and as such has been very closely connected with the spiritual world of cults and religions. The partial domestication of fire by man has resulted in its various other uses. Fire in its various forms has served and continues to serve military, spiritual and entertainment purposes.

Fireworks as a spectacular performance was very closely related to the development of the use of gunpowder and was first documented in Tang Dynasty China (618-907 AD) in the 9th century. Through the Arab world, gunpowder reached Europe in the late 12th century and began to be mixed there sometime in the second half of the 13th century. By the end of the 14th century, we already know of the first attempts to work with pyrotechnics, both for warfare and for entertainment.

During the 16th and especially 17th centuries, a number of technical books describing the preparation and effects of fireworks spread through Europe. From the 16th century onwards, we also have documented firework displays, combining a simple musical and dramatic component, spectacular fire and light shows, and ephemeral sets and monuments with often very expensive sets. They ranged in length from minutes to over an hour-long performances with several dramatically interwoven acts. Very often they had allegorical overtones and responded to the current political or dynastic situation.

During the 17th century, firework shows became widespread in almost all European courts. This was no different in central Europe, where gunpowder, rockets, cannons, muskets and fire in the service of elaborate allegorical entertainment are found not only in the imperial court but also among the prominent aristocracy.


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