It was considered a very dangerous pastime. But in the later part of the Medieval Age the games took on a safer tone; the game was regulated by decrees of kings and interventions by the Pope. This paper will take a closer look at jousting. It will take particular attention to its origin and the reason why it became a very popular activity back in the medieval times. Enough space will also be devoted to find out what were the kinds of equipment used.
Finally, this study will try to find out the transition from a very violent game to a safer one, from the height of popularit to its decline as it was reduced to something fit for pageantry and no more trace of the intense and brutal aspect of the sport. Jousting Jousting is a sport for noble knights. It was a game that was formed by the forces surrounding the social atmosphere of Medieval Europe. The concept of States and democratic rule was far from the minds of the old Europe and what they have were small kingdoms and territories defined by shaky monarchy and simple feudal systems.
In this time, in a much divided Europe the occasion for war comes up at an unexpected moment. There is a need to be prepared at all times. It is very much understandable then that men in those days would create a way to make their warriors stay on alert level and their skills continually honed even in times of peace. The idea of using games as a tool for combat readiness is an ancient invention. It is a natural development from boys playing to adult men doing something for leisure but still with a firm goal in mind.
Jousting Tournaments allowed knights the opportunity not only to practice their skills with weapons and horse but also the chance to impress the crowd and the ladies. For a more determined man the tournaments serve a third purpose and it is the chance to bring home a sizable amount of money in the form of prizes most of it in gold. In this setting it would have been difficult to resist the call of the Tournament or the herald who announces where and when the next tournament will be.
Origins Even though jousting was popularized in literature and film; even if the general population is well aware of concepts such as chivalry and knights in shining armor, scholars content that it is not an easy task to gather first-rate data concerning the subject matter. According to the world-renowned expert R. Coltman Clephan it is difficult to filter fact from legend when examining the chronicles left by untrained chroniclers.
The second reason for the difficulty according to Clephan is the fact that armor and weapons are perishable items especially those that are susceptible to corrosion and destructive human activity. Still, everybody agree that Jousting, ¦was a form of ritualized mock combat in which two armor-clad knights on horseback charged at each other with leveled lances in an attempt to unseat each other. Jousts were usually the centerpiece of great festivals at which knights and the nobility could bask in and honor the long-past days of chivalry while currying favor with kings and maidens (Leibs, 2004 p. 71).
Clephan offered a more technical view and he said that jousting, ¦appears in history in chronicles of the eleventh century; but they doubtless grew out of earlier forms of the rough games and sports engaged in by the noble youth of the period as practice for actual warfare (1995, p. 1). Moreover, to the above-stated fact Leibs adds that, Jousting developed in France during the 11th century, was carried to Germany, and saw the greatest popularity in Italy and England ( 2004, p. 71).
It must be made clear that although jousting may seem to be a fun-filled activity the element of combat makes the sport a dangerous one, far more than todays extreme games because of the violent nature of medieval society and more importantly the lack of appropriate equipment for such a risky sport. In the earlier phase of the games development, one can find documentation of accidents and deaths. Clephan pointed out that, At the meeting held at Neuss, near Cologne, in 1240, sixty of the combatants are stated to have been killed.
In England an Earl of Salisbury died from his hurts; his grandson, Sir William Montague, was killed when jousting with his own father; and many prominent knights and nobles were so injured in the tourney that they never regained their health (1995, p. 11). It is inevitable to call for stricter rules and improvement in equipment to design to improve on safety. Equipment The noted historian R. Ewart Oakeshott remarked that knights in the medieval era carried lances and swords that could be elegant and ornate as well as brutal and efficient.
It is most likely that the same weapons carried in war were also used in earlier jousting tournaments. Safety concerns help jumpstart the evolution of the equipment and devices used to favor the health and survival of the participating knights. Thus, the unreliable padded armor and the crude chain mail gave way to a more sturdy and reliable iron plates (see Gravett, 1998, p. 58). The head gear also known as the basinet evolved from a simple skull cap into an elaborate helmet with movable facepiece or visor (Tunis, 1999, p. 66).
For jousting the knights use jousting helms for safety purposes. Lances were used alright but instead of making it more dangerous later improvements made it more blunt. The much improved device is now called, ¦coronel-tipped lances designed to catch but not pierce their opponents shields (Newman, 2001, p. 177). The horse have protection too from savage blows. The animals are fitted with, ¦chanfrons on their heads and peytrals over their chests and front legs (Newman, 2001, p. 177). But the equipment can only protect the riders up to a certain extent.
For the sake of safety the game need to be regulated by the authorities. Safety There are two major factors that changed the tone of the game making it safer for the participants to engage head-on. The first one involves the revolution in equipment design. The second one requires the participation of kings and popes. With regards to the influence of kings Clephan remarked, Tournaments generally tended to become milder as rules, regulations and limitations were enacted for their government¦ (1995, p. 11).
With regards to the role of popes, the Holy See tried to ban the events if not force the rulers to make it less dangerous (see Taylor, 2003, p. 70). As a result Taylor adds, Stricter rules and blunted weapons were introduced later to reduce casualties¦ (2003, p. 70). Conclusion It is now made clear why jousting as a sport became a necessity not only for the sake of entertainment, display of chivalry, and the need to gain fame and fortune. It was primarily an activity arising from the need for combat readiness among the soldiers especially those in the cavalry.
The game evolved from the rough versions played outdoors to the more complicated ones that are sanctioned by kings and participated by knights coming from different parts of Europe. Even though it was only a game it was no less dangerous. The earlier versions of jousting saw a good number of men seriously injured, other were even fatal. So the game evolved into something that is regulated by rules most of it coming from kings and no doubt influenced by the Holy See from Rome who find the game a little more violent that it was supposed to be.
But the demise of jousting could not only be blamed by the elimination of the risk factor, a move that somehow took the excitement out of the tournament. There are other factors as well and most notably were the changes in the battlefield that ultimately decided the fate of jousting. Thus, when warfare finds the cavalry charge an obsolete battle strategy, jousting slowly faded into oblivion. It still exists today as pageantry more like cultural show and for display in events strictly for the sake of reminiscing the glorious past.
But forever gone are the days when a lance gets crushed against a noble knights armor and shield, sending the warrior flying through the air as he is being unseated by a more skilled foe. It must have been one exciting spectacle to behold.
Chivalry. Encyclopedia of the Renaissance. Ed. Paul F. Grendler. Vol. 4 New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 2004, 154-156. 4 vols. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Thomson Gale. Clephan, R. Coltman. The Medieval Tournament. Mincola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc. , 1995.