By Mike Garner and Dustin Langel

Tournaments were a type of entertainment in which knights could display their combat abilities.  They were the most attended activity of the medieval period.  Tournaments were a series of battle with blunted weapons.  The object of  the battle was to eliminate your opponent.  Real death of the opponent would result in immediate disqualification, but non-leathel injuries were acceptable.  The participating knights won great respect from the people, as well as the many lovely ladies.  The winners won prizes from the organizer of the tournament, but also got paid by the loser .  The loser would have to pay money equaling the amount of ransom they would be required to pay if they were captured in battle.  The Tournament evolved from earlier contests to become a recognized activity in the 11th century.  It was during this time that the lance became common practice to use in calvary charge.

The development of couching the lance under the arm was to increase impact.  This is what led to the joust.  The joust became the centerpeice of all tournaments.  By the 13th century the joust was becoming a social activity, as well as the participation of the noble women ( as spectators.) They were also the presentors of awards.  After the women joined the spectators they started having dances in the evenings.  The Joust was a good form of combat, which rarely appeared in battle.  The joust consisted of two knights on horses that would charge at each other, and they carried a lance couched under their arms.  The object was to knock your opponent off their horse.  The event became the premeir of the tournament.  The drama of two knights in full armor charging at each other on horses made it a likeable event.  In the 12th century the knights began to joust one on one.  The knights were separated by 100-300 yards of space.  They would charge at each other until someone was dehorsed.  This was how (according to the rules) the awarding points and penalties for "unchivalrous" behavior (like hurting a horse or hitting your apponent when his back is turned) were given. By the 15th century jousts took place on what we today call "the Lists" which was a 100 x 300 yard field.  Running down the middle of the field was a 5 foot tall wooden fence called "the Tilt".  Eventually another fence was added on both sides so the horses had to run down the area provided.  Tournamental scoring was oridinariely the same as for battle.  When you unhorsed a knight he became your prisoner, and you got to keep his armor and mount.  This ment that you got a lot of money, per prisoner, or lost as much if you were unhorsed.  Prizes were smaller if you were fighting on foot.  Jousting was all about the skillful use of a lance while riding a fast moving horse.  The lance was a mounted knight's most formatable weapon.  The mounted, lanced knights were what had defeated the Roman Legion, Viking raiders, and just about every other  foe they encountered.  These attacks sometimes failed, but that was rare.  Anyone on the other end of these attacks could call themselves lucky if they lived.  Untill the 11th century, the charge (largely) was a mass of fast moving horses and men armed with swords and axes.  Untill the 11th century, the knights used their spear like swords, for thrusting, contrary to what most people thought they used them for.

  Gunpowder brought an end to the medieval tournament. By the 17th century, the nobility no longer fought on horseback with a lance.  Armor was still worn, in an abbreviated fashion but more for display that for protection. Jousting was no longer used in battle, but the joust continued. The action was provided by a smaller number of hobbiest jousters rather than the thousands of professional warriors who had  previously been the participants. The tournament stressed the other activities which now include dueling with swords (as we know it today), athletic contests, parades, pageants, and entertainers of all sorts. Tournaments turned into pure entertainment rather than practice for war.

Here are some links to our favorite pages!!!


 Brian's Joust and Tournamrnts page


Kyl's Medieval Clipart

  The Joust
Questions or coments? E-mail Dustin here.
Or Mike here.

This page was last updated,
Updated by Dustin Langel
Sullivan High School
Sullivan, Missouri