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5732some jousting history

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  • Jeffrey Blaisdell
    Mar 1, 2004
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      Greetings, All,

      The following is another item from my weekly History Book Club newsletter. Thought it would interest you. Not sure about the comment on mobility at the end, though.

      Geoffrey of Bleasdale



      Jousting: A Deadly Sport in the Age of Chivalry

      Although much romanticized in film and literature, medieval jousting was in fact a serious and deadly event in which heavily armored knights mounted horses and rode at one another with 14-foot wooden lances aimed for the heart. In one 11th-century jousting tournament alone, 60 knights died, and in another a father tragically killed his son. First held in ancient Rome, jousting tournaments were revived in the 11th century as a way for knights to hone their fighting skills during peacetime.

      In preparation for warfare, medieval knights engaged in mock battles called "melees," which pitted one band of knights jousting against another in an open field. This form of jousting was the most brutal of all. Participants rushed at each other, using any means possible to knock an opponent out of the saddle, which was specially designed with a foot-high back to prevent just this. A knight's armor could weigh up to 50 pounds, and together with the undergarments it made jousting in the summer months an excruciating experience.

      It was not long before this form of military training became an immensely popular sport and the mainstay of medieval tournaments. Competition grew fiercer and bloodier--and even profitable, as a champion jouster might commandeer the loser's horse and armor or even hold him for ransom. Dismayed by the carnage, the Church eventually banned the sport in the 11th century and declared, "Those who fall in tourneys will go to hell."

      By the mid-13th century, however, jousting had returned. It was more popular than ever, but with significant changes. In these "pleasure jousts," the knights' wooden lances were dulled and made thinner so they would snap on contact. A successful joust resulted in the spectacular splintering of lances without injury to either knight. Eventually, knights aimed their lances not at each other but at rings suspended from poles. A knight was judged by his ability to control a powerful, charging horse while manipulating a lance, with vision and movement severely restricted by the armor he wore.


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