The Middle Ages for Kids - Jousts & Tournaments Illustration

Middle Ages for Kids
Jousts, Melees,
& Tournaments

One of the ways a knight could practice and improve his skills without actually going into battle was to enter a tournament. In addition to practice, a knight could win public acclaim as well as money by winning a tournament.

The tournament area would be either walled off with a temporary fence or maybe just roped off. The nobles sat in wooden stands while the peasants would sit in the fields nearby to watch. A tournament was a big event and people came from far away to watch. Ladies were allowed to give a favorite knight something of hers, like a scarf or a glove, something he could hold that would identify him as her chosen knight.

A tournament's activities included all the skills a knight was supposed to have. There would be fighting of all types as well as contests of poetry and song. The two favorite events were the joust and melee. They were very rough sports.

Jousting was combat between two knights. The two started from opposite sides of a field and charged their horses towards each other. The goal was to knock the other knight off his horse. If a knight splintered three lances, the bout was considered a draw. If a knight was knocked off his horse, the fight could continue on the ground using swords and axes. Or the winner might demand the loser forfeit his horse or his armor. Knights died all the time in tournaments. Sometimes, horses panicked. They ran out of control into the crowd and killed peasants in their path.

Melee was team sport. It was combat between two teams of knights and squires. The goal was to capture the flag each knight and squire had on their back. They wore armor and used clubs and blunt swords to do this. Again broken bones and deaths were common.

The church tried to stop tournaments because they were too violetn. They never succeeded. Interest in tournaments began to fade with the widespread introduction of guns.

Jousting is practiced today (with a lot more safeguards in place to limit injury) at many Renaissance fairs and tournaments and is practiced by the Society for Creative Anachronism.

Interactive Quiz about the Middle Ages (with answers)