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Schembartlauf in Nuremberg
Schembartlauf costumes

The Schembart Carnival or Nuremberg Shrovetide Carnival (German: 'Schembartlauf') was popular in Nuremberg, Germany in the 15th century before it ended in 1539 due to the complaints of a town dignitary. The carnival features costumed men with bearded masks carved of wood, carrying on and generally acting foolishly. The name shembart is German for 'maskbeard'. Along with music, song, food and drink, the carnival featured speakers who poked fun at politicians, persons of power, and policies of the government. The carnival was revived in 1974.[1]

We know details about the Schembart Carnival from about more than 80 Schembartbooks (Schembartbuch, maskbeardbooks). This manuscripts describe chronologically and richly illustrated the Nuremberg Schembartlauf events in the period of 1449 to 1530. Written from the late 16th century until 19th century, this books are quite similar to each other and mostly have colored drawings of the costumed men and of festivities of each year, and also list the names of participants, descriptions of masks and a recording of the better carnival events. 35 originals are located in Nuremberg libraries, most of them in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nurenberg, about 30 more in other German cities. Some books reside abroad.

Since 17th Century sporadic performances are reported, but only starting 1974, the Nuremberg "Schembart Gesellschaft" performs the event regularly, although not every year.

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