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8-08-2015, 16:20

Tournaments

Theatrical performances, in which the guests might join, sometimes with tragic results, became very important by the fifteenth century. Then as now people loved to dance. They also loved sports, hunting, and especially tournaments (Document 63). Tournaments began as training for warfare. The space between castle walls known as the lists provided space for military exercises and also for jousting. Jousting was a formal fight, engaged in as a sport. In the twelfth century two teams of knights engaged in a free-for-all combat called a melee, a word we still use for a chaotic situation. Weapons were supposed to be blunt, but injuries and even deaths were common. In the thirteenth century tournaments provided entertainment that included spectacular athletic displays, colorful rituals, and banquets. William Marshall, lord of Pembroke Castle, began his career as a jouster in tournaments. By the fourteenth century the jousts consisted of formal contests in which mounted warriors charged each other with lances in an attempt to knock each other off the horse. Heralds supervised the tournament and acted as umpires. Jousting took place in walled lists. Temporary wooden walls could be constructed to form the lists, or the area between the inner and outer walls of a castle could serve. Spectators watched from the castle walls, which might be extended with temporary wooden barriers, or “tilts.” Pavilions and stands for spectators were also built. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries tournaments became a very expensive sport, engaged in only by wealthy men who wore splendid armor identified by heraldic colors and emblems. They rode powerful horses (destriers) that were also decked out with heraldic trappings. Kings even held international competitions in which they guaranteed safe conduct for jousters from abroad. In 1344 at a tournament at Windsor Castle, men came from Scotland, France, Burgundy, and elsewhere. The knights fought for honor and glory, and they often dedicated their skill and strength to their ladies, who judged and awarded prizes. Ceremony and spectacle replaced mock warfare.

 

 

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