Medieval Times

Feasts and Tournaments by Linnea Heinrichs

Perhaps the greatest spectacle of the medieval period was the tournament. Essentially a training for war, the combative ardor of the participants was often akin to the spirit of genuine war. Kings frequently cancelled tournaments fearing that after the spears were split asunder in the ‘jousts of peace’ bloody swords might take their place in real combat. King Henry III thought tournaments to be a pretext for conspiracy by barons, as the mock wars were closely connected to baronial uprisings.

The censure of kings proved ineffectual and one monastic chronicler wrote that participants in tournaments, their aiders and abettors and those who carried merchandise or foodstuffs to tournaments were ordered to be excommunicated regularly every Sunday.

Although by the thirteenth century tournaments became a milder form of single combat with blunted weapons, they could still be lethal. Suspicions of murder surrounded the death of one unlucky knight when it was found his throat had been pierced by an unblunted lance. On another occasion a tournament ended in turmoil with the participants beaten and trampled, from which afterwards some never recovered their health.

Despite its violent history, the tournament retains an aura of chivalry and romance.

Imagine being greeted by royalty at a grand feast laid out under a colorful pavilion. Imagine the lance-splitting action and pageantry of a tournament. Today you can visit a castle, partake of a medieval feast and watch mounted knights clash in combat.

For a location near you, visit the Medieval Times website.

For exciting, non-fiction books on chivalry, jousting and knightly combat, try the Chivalry Bookshelf.

To find a veritable festival of material on medieval clothing and how to make it, see the Virtue Ventures resource page.

Knights Joust for Battle