“Did people in the Middle Ages work all the time?” The answer is definitely not. They certainly worked hard and dealt with many problems, but that makes a person appreciate free time even more. There was no work on Sunday for religious reasons, they enjoyed the festivals on holidays and they actually played games. At the Ozark Medieval Fortress guests have been able to play several games popular in the Middle Ages.
The most popular in the past as well as with our modern guests is Bocce Ball. The Romans played it and the name comes from the Latin “Boccia” which means “ball”. The game is very much like American marbles, but with much bigger balls. A small target ball is thrown first on short grass and the goal is to roll your bocce ball the closest to the target, called a “pallino” ball. Initially the balls were stones; in the Medieval they were clay or wood. In modern times balls are often metal. Bocce was introduced to the United States by the French and George Washington had a Bocce court set up at his home Mt. Vernon. A similar game played with thick wooden pegs called “kingpins” is also played at the Ozark Medieval Fortress.
Hopscotch is another outdoor game that was popular in the Middle Ages. Tradition has it that Roman soldiers started it in Great Britain. The court was 100 feet long and the soldiers played in full armor for training - like football players dance through old tires. Children throughout Europe picked up the game and made it their own.
In the Middle Ages, people also played a variety of board games, Parchisi was known in Europe as were similar games. The main board game was chess. The game came from the Muslims of the East. Chess was so respected that a Spanish writer in the 1100’s listed it as one of the seven necessary knightly skills. Chess became so popular and money bets so common that Louis IX (King of France during the historical time of the Ozark Medieval Fortress) banned money bets on all chess games, but that didn’t dampen enthusiasm for the game. Now chess can be played online and thousands of players are available at any given time.