The tournaments kept the knight in excellent condition for the role he would need to play during medieval warfare - skill with weapons and supreme strength and fitness were necessary to knights of the Middle Ages. Tournaments were exciting and colorful pageants which displayed different forms of combat. Jousting was one of the events shown at a tournament. Jousting was an individual event whereas the Melee was a team event where teams of knights fought on fought or on horseback.
Different types of Jousting in the Middle Ages
There were two types of jousting events during the Middle Ages the 'Joust a plaisance' and the 'Pas d'armes'
- Joust a plaisance - A series of elimination jousting contests which were held over over several days. An overall jousting winner would be determined
- Pas d'armes or passage of arms Jousting event - A Knight would send out a proclamation that he would take on all jousting challengers at a specific time and place.
Origins of Jousting
The origins of jousting can be traced to any war time in early history was dependent upon equestrian skills - for instance, the horsemanship of the Mongols was legendary. The Gladiatorial contests fought in the arena's built across Europe were banned in 404AD. But the battles fought in the arenas were remembered and changed into games to enable soldiers to practise skills which did not culminate in the death or injury of participants. Old games were revived where the battles of antiquity were replayed in those such as the 'Game of Troy'. The tournaments of the Middle Ages replaced the gladiatorial games of the Roman arena but with far less fatalities and bloodshed and far more finesse. The Code of Chivalry was an important element of the tournament and the jousting event. It is interesting to note that the word 'joust' is derived from the Roman 'juxtare', which means "to meet together.". Click the link at the top of the page to discover the History of Jousting.
Jousting were major events in the tournaments, or tourneys, of the Middle Ages. Medieval jousting tournaments were the training grounds for Knights of the Middle ages but they were also great entertainment for the local people. Jousting tournaments were usually held on a field in close proximity to a castle called the 'Lists'. "To be in the lists" meant to be competing in the tournament. People would view the jousting and other events from the battlements of the castle or sit alongside the Jousting tournament field. A grandstand, called a Berfrois, was built a full story above the level of the lists. This grandstand housed the ladies and other noble spectators. Pavilions were erected around the area of the jousting tournaments. Pavilions were the name given to the bright, round medieval tents of alternating colors which housed the combatants and surgeons of a jousting tournament. Jousting tournaments teemed with spectators and combatants including royalty, nobles, knights, ladies and commoners.
Jousting Tournaments - The Preparations
Jousting tournaments were great events. They had to be formally planned and preparations were numerous.
- Challenges from on noble to another to 'Cry the Tournament'
- The 'bans' crying for a tournament consisted of an announcement sent via heralds to notify nobles that a jousting tournament was to be held 'at a specific time and place
- The rules of a pas d'armes was published in advance of the jousting tournament
- Announcements of the jousting tournaments were made from the castles and town criers made the announcements in the towns and from the towns the word spread to the villages
- The news of a jousting tournament was always greeted with great excitement and the banners of the knights were hung from the windows where they lodged or by their supporters
Jousting Rules were circulated prior a jousting tournament or pas d’armes. Refer to Jousting Terminology. The jousting Rules and terms included the following:
- When and where the tournament would be held
- Who was sponsoring the tournament
- The specific styles of combat which were expected to be fought
- The weapons allowed
Jousting Tournaments - The Ceremony observed at Jousting Tournaments
Jousting tournaments were great events and tournament ceremonies was observed:
- Sending of challenges from one noble to another
- Vespers Tourney: A tournament held on the eve of a larger event, where the younger knights bachelor and squires had an opportunity to demonstrate their prowess before the experienced knights and assembled gallery
- Opening day processions where judges and contestants rode in formal procession. The ceremony used to start a tournament or pas d’armes was called the Invocation
- Tree of Shields: The place where several colored shields were hung for a pas d’armes. Challenging knights could choose the combat they required by hitting the shield
- The Second day ceremony included the display of the helms of knights who had fought in tournaments
- The ladies inspected the helms and denounced acts of un-chivalrous behavior
- The third day ceremony was when the 'Chevalier d'honneur' was chosen who performed the rule of an umpire
- On the last day of the tournament the ceremony for awarding the tournament prizes was conducted
- The tourney being ended, the combatants met in the centre of the lists, and embraced each other in the true companionship of chivalry
- Every day of the Jousting Tournament ended with feasting, music and dancing
The Jousting Knights represented their liege lord or were entering the tournament in order to win the purse, or prize money. In early tournaments the losing knight would forfeit his armor and his horse which would be claimed by the victor. Fame and Glory were also good reasons for the jousting knights to enter a tournament.