The-Joust-art - 10/18/06


"The Joust" by Marija Kotok.


NOTE: See also the files: tournaments-art, tournaments-msg, tourn-ideas-msg, armor-msg, jousting-msg, p-armor-msg, Swords-bib, horses-bib, horses-msg.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at:


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at



The Joust

by Marija Kotok


     We have no exact date for when jousting really started as a formal event. The first written tournament guidelines are usually credited to a Frenchman named Geoffroi de Purelli in 1066. Unfortunately, he was killed at the very tournament for which he made the rules.


     History tells us it was extremely popular in Europe during the fourteen hundreds. Jousting tournaments were initially military exercises between the various nobles. Such tournaments starting peacefully, often turned into bloody battles between jealous champions.  The tourney was also one way for a lowborn knight to make a quick name for himself, and perhaps win riches as well.  Tournaments were appealing for many reasons.  In a tournament a knight could enjoy all the excitement, danger and glory of war, with none of the dirt, flies, disease or discomfort.


    When a knight was victorious he expected to receive his reward. It was a common practice that the winners received the horses, armour, and/or money of the losers as their prizes. Furthermore it was also considered downright disgraceful for a lady to refuse her favors to a knight who had fought in her honor.  All this helped the tourney quickly become a very attractive proposition.


     Tournaments were generally viewed with disapproval by the Church because they distracted the knights from the crusades and also due to the large amount of deaths in them.  In one enormous tourney in Cologne more than sixty knights were killed. And English tournaments became so brutal that the Church of England eventually forbade the Christian burial of those killed in tournaments. Saying, "Those who fall in tourneys will go to hell".


    The Statute of Arms for Tournaments, established in 1292, helped end some of the tournament dangers.  In most places the tourney became less of a military matter and more sport with spectators.  Knights jousted with blunted weapons and were required to abide by the ideas of chivalry and fair play of the time.  After this time to kill a man in a tournament was considered wrong - or, at the very least, unfortunate. For killing a horse there was no excuse.


     It also became accepted that there were three basic forms.  Melee or Tourney Proper was where upon hearing the charge, everyone promptly crashed onto the tournament field and proceeded to unhorse all others by any method at hand until a winner was determined.  Individual Joust which was between two knights. The rules were simple. If a combatant struck either rider or horse he was disqualified. A clean hit to the center or "boss" of the shield shattering the lance, or unseating the opponent scored points. A low partition wall separating contestants was introduced in about 1420 strictly as a measure to reduce injury to horses.  Practice Tournament were where practice targets were provided by either a quintain or rings. These developed accuracy skills.


    Only in the German Empire did the no holds barred tourney survive. It was there that the practice of Scharfrennen "jousting with sharpened lances" continued.  It is felt that many of these tournaments were used as a safe outlet for private feuds among the nobility and were allowed to continue because they served a purpose.


    In the end even papal and royal bans proved ineffective. They became festivals, feasts, merchanting opportunities and dances.  And sometimes even a satirical comedy as when the knights fought dressed as fine ladies and nuns in Acre in 1286.


    The churches also benefited from the tourneys because in the end all knights had to make their peace with God! Many a knight endowed chapels and churches in hopes of returning to God's good graces after his many tournament activities. They bought their way into burial on holy ground and even beneath the edge of a churchÕs walls so the water having become holy from dripping on the church might cleanse their soul!




Bishop, Morris    The Middle Ages, NY, NY  American Heritage   1968


Holmes, George     The Oxford History of Midieval Europe, Oxford, England     Oxford University Press  1988



Copyright 2002 by Marilyn Kinyon, 1598 Sawmill Rd., Hedgesville, WV 25427. <MamaLynx at>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited and receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

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