The Medieval Jousting Tournament

knight_DSC_0762The clash of jousting lance against steel shield.  The anxious wait to see if one of the riders would be unhorsed.  But what I have found in my research is that there is so much more to jousting then I have realized.

In my research for my new novel, I have come to understand what a grand spectacle a jousting tournament was.  Tournaments during the Middle Ages could be a good source of revenue for a knight.  Prize money could be substantial.  The allure of a battle was what brought most of these hardened warriors together to prove their worth. 

An announcement was sent via heralds to inform nobles when and where a jousting tournament was to be held.  The announcement was spread from the castle to the towns and then the villages.  It was always an exciting time.  Banners of the knights were hung from windows where they were staying and by their supporters or fans. 

During a Pas d’Arms, think of pass of arms, a knight would send out notice that he would take on all comers at a certain time and place.

A Joust a plaisance Tournament was held over several days and it consisted of a series of elimination rounds. 

Medieval jousting tournaments were usually held on a field, close to a castle, called the lists.  A grandstand, called a Berfrois, was sometimes built a full story above the lists.  This housed the ladies and noble spectators, giving them a good seat to view the joust.  Round, brightly colored tents called Pavilions were erected around the lists to accommodate the combatants and surgeons.

On the opening day of the joust, judges and a line of contestants rode in procession.  The ceremony was called an Invocation.

On the second day, there would be a display of all the knight’s helms who had fought in the tournament.  The ladies would inspect them and condemn acts of unchivalrous behavior. 

On the last day of the tournament, the prizes would be given.  When the tourney was over, all the combatants would gather in the center of the lists and embrace each other in a show of good sportsmanship.  This still remains true today at the end of many of our sporting events.  And finally, there was music and feasting on the last day.

Hope you enjoyed this little trip backward in time and learned a little bit more about jousting.

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