Medieval Sports

I though tit necessary, seeing as we went over the tournament the other day, to speak on the topic of jousting.  Now I have told how I would like to see jousting be an Olympic event but I don’t think that I have ever gone into the rules of jousting. So, here we go.

First some terms:

Tilt – to joust – thus named due to the stance that the knights take when they are charging toward each other

Lists – these are the barriers that define the field of ‘battle’ in a tournament.  In particular to jousting, it means the path that they ride when jousting or tiliting.

Pas d’armes (Passage of Arms) – A knight announces that they will take on all challenges.

Club Tourney – a tournament or part of a tournament where the knights used blunt swords or clubs to knock the crest off the opposing knights helmets.  You will see this at faire with full contact jousting like the Tennessee Renaissance Festival.

Rules for Medieval Jousting:

  • Only Nobles – This is the easy one.  Unless you are a knight you do not get to tilt.  Even though movies like A Knight’s Tale would like us to believe that the commoner could lie their way into a tournament, this was very, very unlikely.
  • The Knight must own his own horse and equipment – Here is the main reason why commoners did not enter, the horse and the armor were very expensive.  Many knights owned nothing else in the world, especially in the later part of the Middle Ages.  They had no land because all of the land had been divided up and they were knights in name only.  Until a war broke out they would find themselves roaming the countryside, looking for the next tournament.
  • At the signal, the opponents ride at each other, carrying only a lance and a shield – no sword or anything else were on the horse.  They had their armor and they had a shield and a lance (unless they were using a target which was part of the armor that they aimed for during a joust – more on this later)
  • You may use three lances in each jousting match. Once your three lances have shattered, the jousting match is over
  • One point for breaking your lance on your opponent’s chest
  • Two points for breaking your lance on your opponent’s helmet
  • Three points for knocking your opponent off from his horse
  • An unhorsing ends the match – If you have seen full contact jousting done in person, you know why an unhorsing ends the match.  That fall is terrible and wonderful to watch.  I can’t imagine getting back up to tilt again after taking the fall.
  • If your lance does not break, no point is awarded
  • If a knight falls or his lance breaks, only his own squire may physically help him – The squires were the only ones allowed on the jousting field.  If anyone went tot he assistance of one of the combatants – that combatant was disqualified.

When the joust was over and the points were announced, the joust was over.  Well, the joust was over unless the knights decided to complete their combat at arms on foot with swords and daggers.  This did occur and was one of the best ways to end a match in case there was a tie.  Again, an unhorsing ended the match and nine times out of ten they did not go at it on foot after one of them took the fall.

Shield jousting was very popular in the early part of the Middle Ages.  In later years, a German style of jousting were the target was a reinforced piece on the left shoulder of the armor instead of a shield became the most accepted form of jousting.  This reinforced section for the armor was known as the Brechschild.  Shields could turn when they were hit and sometimes caused more injury then they stopped.