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Jeremy V. Krause




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PostPosted: Fri 13 May, 2011 12:20 pm    Post subject: How much were medieval weapons influenced by the tournament?         Reply with quote

Hello everyone,

I know wikiedia isn't the greatest resource out there but in my casual web browsing I came across a notion/question posed in the wikipedia article on the medieval tournament:

"It is a vexed issue as to what extent specialized arms and armour were used in mêlée tournaments. A further question that might be raised is to what extent the military equipment of knights and their horses in the 12th and 13th centuries was devised to meet the perils and demands of tournaments, rather than warfare. It is however clear from the sources that the weapons used in tournaments were initially the same as those used in war." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tournament_(medieval)

So I suppose my more specific interest here lies within this question in the context of the High Medieval period.

What do you guys think of this wikipedia quote? Have you encountered this question in you own studies or seen interesting interesting aspects of original pieces that could inform this issue?

Lastly, I must say I find it very interesting and a bit perplexing that fully sharpened Oakeshott type X, Xa, Xi, Xia, and Xii and variants would be used in a context in which fatal wounds were not the immediate focus of such conflict.

What do folks think?

P.S. Another interesting thing stated in this Wikipedia article is that the last tournament occurred in Bruges in 1379. My understanding is that they went well into the 15th. c. Was I wrong or is there something wrong with this entry?
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Fri 13 May, 2011 10:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I do not think this comment really applies much to the High Middle Ages. Remember that the word tournament, especially in the context of the 12th century, is a misnomer, because it implies that tournaments were significantly different from battles. Remember that the early tournaments were essentially battles with a few more rules, but were still fought earnestly and with sharp weapons too. Ransoming played a significant role in the early tournaments, which might seem to make them dissimilar to battles, but ransoming also played a significant role in real battles too, which must not be overlooked.

Early tournaments were even thought of by contemporaries in terms of being like battles. Richard the Lionheart introduced the tourneying circuit in the Anglo-Angevin realm partially because of the finances it could bring to him, but also because it was acknowledged that French knights were among the most skillful fighters because of all the tournaments they fought in. In other words, he was using it as a means of training for war. Famously, William the Breton, in his account of the Battle of Bouvines even likened the battle to tourneying.

The evidence supports the conclusion that, early on at least, there was not a hard and fast distinction to be made between tournaments and war. Furthermore, to my knowledge, specialized weapons for the purpose of tournaments did not begin to appear until at least the 14th century, so the discussion seems like a moot point to me.
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Mrak E.Smith





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PostPosted: Sat 14 May, 2011 12:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In one of the leading military historian John Keegan 's A History of Warfare, he presents a similar statement that the equipments of knights is more suitable in tournament or influenced by tournament and joust practising.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Sat 14 May, 2011 1:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here's another thing too: the question seems to presuppose that there is a significant difference between weapons designed for war and weapons designed for tournament. From that, and from historical examples that I've seen, it seems to me that the weapons designed in tournaments would have been specialized for tournament usage. After all, if weapons for tournaments are different from those of war, one would expect that the weapons influenced by tournament designs would be made to be safer, and less dangerous. Therefore, it seems somewhat improbable that the weapons designed in tournaments would be used in a warfare context.
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Sat 14 May, 2011 3:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What kind of adaptations does he mean? I can't think of any tournament adaptations in that period, maybe with the exception of the coat of plates in the late 13th c....
"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Jeremy V. Krause




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PostPosted: Sat 14 May, 2011 11:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well my understanding,

From Wikipedia lol Wink - as Ive not done very much reading on the specific subject of the tournament, is that weapons would have been the same for both war and tournament during the 12th, and part of the 13th. c. The article states that there is period mention in the middle of the 13th. c., that swords should be blunted for tournament- thus indicating this was not a universal practice.

Now, later, into the 15th c. there are certainly armor modification for tournament use. But this article states that the tournament as it is understood, was not being practiced anymore at that time. I was surprised at this statement, and frankly, don't understand it, as I have seen many mentions of the tournament occuring in these latter middle ages.
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Quinn W.




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PostPosted: Sat 14 May, 2011 11:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would say the tournament as popular imagery goes actually only really got started in the 14th century. Before that tournaments were used as training tools and battle simulations. The 14th century saw a transition into the tournament into more of a spectacle that was quite distinct from true battle. The tilt (the fence between two jousters) was only added in the 15th century, and one need only look at the various harnesses designed for Henry VIII specifically for use in tournaments to see that they were alive and well even at the top of society well past 1379.
"Some say that the age of chivalry is past, that the spirit of romance is dead. The age of chivalry is never past, so long as there is a wrong left unredressed on earth"
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Sat 14 May, 2011 8:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think the confusion is arising from how they've used the word "tournament". They are not using "tournament" to refer to a joust or another other formal pageant involving the display of skill and arms. Rather, the article seems to be using the word to exclusively refer to a semi-structured melee involving competing teams of knights wielding steel weapons.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sat 14 May, 2011 8:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Weapons for tournaments might be optimized for safety when used, as they would be, with tournament armour, so wouldn't really influence the design of more effective and dangerous weapons.

Armour developments might have influenced better fit and coverage of armour, better heat treat of armour when the armour was heat treated and improved the skills of high end armour makers maybe in the way that car racing influences better car components, materials, design etc ....

For real battle lighter kit, partial armour coverage might have been preferred for practical reasons.

Armour for a set battle might be maximized, but chevauché or armour for a long sustained campaign might be optimized differently.

As others have suggested before the 15th or 16th century jousting was just more or less friendly and competitive war practice with blows and targets weighted just barely more lightly or controlled to not deliberately kill, but it was a rough sport and casualties would often happen.

The armour being sufficiently protective that the odds of being killed where just a bit less when the tournaments where friendly practice compared to full out trying to kill in a real fight ? Although, capture and ransom probably induced some restraints even in war to avoid killing blows versus knocking down and disarming blows ?

( Well, I'm mostly speculating here, so don't take this a proof of anything. Wink ).

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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Sun 15 May, 2011 1:05 pm    Post subject: Re: How much were medieval weapons influenced by the tournam         Reply with quote

Jeremy V. Krause wrote:

What do you guys think of this wikipedia quote? Have you encountered this question in you own studies or seen interesting interesting aspects of original pieces that could inform this issue?

.....

What do folks think?

P.S. Another interesting thing stated in this Wikipedia article is that the last tournament occurred in Bruges in 1379. My understanding is that they went well into the 15th. c. Was I wrong or is there something wrong with this entry?


I agree it is a puzzling issue in 12th and 13th century era. The popular "sport contest" format changed rapidly during late 12th century through early 13th century. Also, there was clearly more than one style of team melee contest, including the behourd or simulated weapon format. Although the most common melee tournaments may have been small scale, contests were numerous enough that several individuals made a career occupation of it. I looked pretty hard at this, including accounts of "tournament deaths" that I could find from 12th and 13th century. Some authors seemed to waffle or change opinion about melee tournament weapons being the same as for battle, or not the same within different portions of a large text, or different texts. I have found myself suffering the same indecision. The situation is complicated in that there were political-religious advocates urging the knightly class to restrain from unnecessary battlefield and tournament killing. Councils of Clermont-1130, Reims-1148, and Latern-1179 & 1215, not relenting until 1316 specifically denied knights who died in tournament a Christian burial. These proclamations are judged by several authors to have been ignored, but are evidence of the type of advocacy I am referring to. Ransom was a preferred outcome of many real battles, not just organized contests in 12th and 13th century era. I consider the proliferation of heraldry and livery badges for team decorum (scarves, medalians, decorated ailletets, horse trappers, etc.) produced in quantity for quickly assembled teams to be one of the developments most likely attributed to tournaments in that era.

The first lance coronel (a "soket" or a "rochet" described as a ring like tip, but with no known depiction or further clarification of the term) was mentioned in the first quarter of the 13th century. A trial resulted in 1252 when Roger II De Leyburn equipped himself with a sharp tipped (described as having a sharpened knife portion with a dagger like point) lance that was in an assortment of weapons and subsequently severed the neck arteries of his opponent Arnulf de Munteny (who had previously maimed Robert De Leyburn’s leg in a separate tournament.) This resulted in a one month long investigation that concluded the incident was an accident.

Ulrich Von Lichtenstein (the real one) claimed exclusive joust events by 1221 in his autobiography. Earlier 12th century contestants (William Marshal) supposedly barely recognized the 3 day format that 13th century tournaments had developed into compared the 12th century "melee intensive" and ransom format contest.

It is debatable, but some 12th and 13th century armor seems to have been considered "used for tournament." A couple of inventories of helmets made some distinction of (possibly great or barrel helms) helms as "tournament helms". (This may have been due to level of decoration, exact reasons were not stated.) At least per my notes, some of the early statues of arms were specifically prefaced as "for tourney"...

“Listen gentles, while I tell
How this knight in fortune fell;
Lands nor vineyards had he none,
Jousts and war his living won…
Rust the shield and falchion hid,
Joust and tourney were forbid,
All his means of living gone
Ermine mantle he had none." .. Fabilau, Recveil de Fablinaux et contes des poetes Francois, 13th century

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Sun 15 May, 2011 4:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Are the punishments for tournament deaths aimed at reducing accident deaths in tournaments - perhaps by reducing tournament activity or encouraging higher safety standards - or aimed at reducing deliberately lethal tournaments?

The most famous example of the latter that comes to mind is the Combat of the Thirty, but I've read of various other examples, sometimes with armour being prohibited (and survivors surviving due to cheating, wearing concealed mail shirts), sometimes large teams, sometimes smaller affairs.

Some interesting accounts, with much death and bloodshed, in this collection of accounts of Deeds of Arms.

Whether or not the smallest would be tournaments, as opposed to duels (although "duel" implies a single opponent rather than an open challenge to all), I don't know. Further on terminology, much of this kind of activity is described by the more generic hastiludium or hastilude, and tournament is often more narrowly intended. But I think the current context of tournament vs war in weapon design suggests a broader meaning for tournament.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Mon 16 May, 2011 11:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Timo Nieminen wrote:
Are the punishments for tournament deaths aimed at reducing accident deaths in tournaments - perhaps by reducing tournament activity or encouraging higher safety standards - or aimed at reducing deliberately lethal tournaments?


None of the published authors' works that I have interpret the historical church prohibitions against tourney as advocating improved weapon safety features in the tournaments within their primary known time frame. The closest to that argument might be the excommunication of Conrad of Lusatia, excommunicated in death during 1175 by Archbishop Wichmann of Magdeburg for participation in tournament during march towards Poland. Sixteen other unnamed knights killed at Magdeburg in other tournaments that same year were also excommunicated by Archbishop Wichmann. (Reference Tournament, page 10 & 11) Mostly the 13th century prohibitions are interpreted pretty consistently as political-religious efforts to get nobles to go on crusade. There were nobles who pledged to go on crusade, but did not do so for a period of several years while they continued to expend lavish excesses and military resources on tournaments. In some tournaments there were theatrical parodies of the church in the form of comic clowns dressed as the "7 deadly sins" or "mock officials" within the tournament show. There seems to have been a pre-Renaissance aspect of rebellion or defiance to it, as well as a general obsession with tournament as a fad or chivalric fashion at that time.

Separately, there were cases of besieged and opposing forces organizing impromptu contests, which could potentially escalate. These were more like "group duel" or pas de Arms as in cases that you mentioned above, but not as bloody in 13th century era. I remember more English island cases of this, with the monarchs prohibiting it. There are a couple of cases of known prosecution, but if I remember it right their disloyalty were greater than just the tournament issue itself in those cases where documented prosecution is known.

We can debate the reasons why, but frequency of accounts of "grande melee" tournament events declined dramatically around 1280, coinciding with the King Philip of France banning it, following an incident in 1279 in which his son Philip III suffered brain damage during tournament participation. Poets, heralds, and affected merchants recorded it's decline with bitterness at the loss of commerce and entertainment. It is considered to have died out within a decade in England following that precedent in France. Occasional exceptions, or sanctioned melee tournaments were organized afterwards in both England and France going into the 14th century, but not with frequency. The last documented English tournament I have any notes on was the 1342 Dunstable tournament. Only 10 horses were ransomed, and it was considered extremely brief in duration. The Flanders-Bruges 1379 melee tournament was considered the last "no holds barred", open country side, brawling style of group melee tournament. I have not found much on its size or composition of who participated in it. Froissart seems to give an account of a small group melee tournament of the old tradition ocurring at St, Inglevert in 1390. I don't know why the Bruges 1379 tournament is considered the last over the St. Inglevert in the original web reference above.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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