On tour at the Ozark Medieval Fortress we see a billboard depicting tournaments painted by Solange Mirat, one of the founding partners. This prompts a discussion of knights’ tournaments in the Middle Ages. In addition, guests have been treated to demonstrations of tournament skills at the castle. I like to point out that there were no tournaments in the low Middle Ages, although there was still trial by combat.
The first tournaments were actually unregulated melees of a mob of knights fighting across fields and into villages, sometimes killing serfs that got in the way and doing injury that started blood feuds. One of the first such melees was in 843 at Worms, Germany. These were seen as training for the knights. That concept was not new, the Romans had military games and, of course, everyone knows about the Roman chariot races.
Tournaments became regulated by the 11th century. They were big events and very popular with the knights and with the people. They held at any time during the year except during Lent. Even from the beginning, they were not considered proper to be held on a Friday or Sunday for religious reasons. In 1130, however, tournaments had a setback when Pope Innocent II forbade Christian burial for anyone killed in a tournament. Richard the Lionheart encouraged tournaments in England, but Louis IX (King of France during Ozark Medieval Fortress historical dates) outlawed tournaments in France after 1260.
In the meantime, tournaments during our historical time are at their peak. Volunteers expert at knightly skills have displayed them at the Ozark Medieval Fortress on numerous occasions. The most recent demonstration has been of sword-and-shield tournament combat on foot. I was first impressed with the discomfort and weight of the knights’ gear, but after seeing the combat, the physical effort amazed me. And this, even though it was in fun.