Saturday, March 8, 2014

Medieval Tournaments

Training in the use of the lance and shield by Charlemagnes troops in the 8th- and 9th-centuries gave rise to the medieval tournaments of England. Knights would hone their skills for battle while fighting for purses offered by sporting noblemen. These staged battles (melees), hand combat competitions, and jousting matches became a form of entertainment for commoners as well as the nobility.

Tournaments came to England from France during the 12th century and reached their greatest popularity in the 13th century.A tournament would usually be held in a field near the castle of the sponsoring noble. The area in the center of the field, called the ‘Lists,’ would be fenced off for jousting. Villagers might sit on wooden benches or the ground within view while the nobility sheltered in colorful pavilions.

Medieval courtly love had its place in tournaments. At a knight’s plea for a token, a lady in attendance might offer a knight a ribbon, veil or detachable sleeve. He would then tie this symbol of her favor to his arm, helm, or lance and fight as her champion.

The knight who managed to hit his opponent’s helmet or shield won the contest and might confiscate the loser’s horse or sometimes take his armor and weapons. In later tournaments this right was waived. Striking legs or horses was off limits and would result in a foul. Many injuries and even deaths occurred during tournaments, especially in the unruly early days. In 1292 the Statute of Arms for Tournaments called for better organization and deemed that all weapons used should be blunted.

Medieval tournaments were colorful events filled with pageantry and chivalry from the age of Romance.

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