The Jousting Life

Monday, June 30, 2014

Promotional Video for Upcoming Documentary Series About Medieval Reenactors in Quebec

A new documentary series about the popularity of medieval reenactment in Canada will air this fall beginning August 25 on Historia, Quebec's equivalent of the History Channel. Jouster Steve R. Gagnon, who organized Le Tournoi du Lys d'Argent for many years, will be featured in at least one episode, thought it not yet known when the episode about jousting will air.

This year, Steve R. Gagnon will be making his third appearance competing at the Arundel International Jousting Tournament. He will also be competing at the new  le Tournoi International du Duché de Bicolline, which grew out of his work with Le Tournoi du Lys d'Argent.

Steve R. Gagnon at Arundel International Tournament 2013(photo by Richard Pearn)

Related articles:
The Competitors for the Arundel Castle International Jousting Tournament 2012

Arundel Castle International Jousting Tournament 2013

Quebec Team, Order of the Dragon Wins “Le Tournoi du Lys d'Argent 2012”

Random Pic: Getting the Right Shot

Friday, June 27, 2014

A Brief Interview with Armourer, Videographer and Soon-to-be-Jouster Eric Dubé

Eric Dubé of Armure Dubé has been featured in several articles on The Jousting Life showcasing his skill as both a videographer and armourer. I recently had the chance to chat with Eric online and ask him a few questions:

Eric Dubé of Armure Dubé and his replica of the Earl of Warwick 1439 armour
(photo by Eric
Dubé )

How did you become involved in creating armor?

Pretty simple, when I moved out of my parents' house, I wanted a set of armour to put in my living room. I could not find any, so I made one. I had never worked with metal before that.

How did you become involved in creating videos?

Well, in 1998 I got my first PC, and I had it rigged for video editing, but I had so many armour commissions (a year and a half waiting list), I never got around to using it until 2007, when a friend of mine gave me a camera for taking pictures that I could also film with. It awoke my old desire of video making.

Who do you make armor for?

Collectors, re-enactors, and larpers… full spectrum I guess.

What styles of armour have you made?

Gothic, Italian, English, Fantasy.

What piece or complete harness that you have made are you the most proud of? Why?

The replica of the Earl of Warwick 1439.  This project was the one that made me focus all the knowledge I had acquired for the last 20 years.  It all came together for this project.

Replica of the Earl of Warwick 1439 armour and Eric Dubé of Armure Dubé who created the replica
(photo by Eric Dubé)

How is armour created for jousting different from other armour?

Jousting armour could be slightly modified for that task, or you could have a full harness specially made for jousting, but this armour would not be functional for foot combat.

Do you have plans to ever wear your own armour in the joust?

Recently, I started riding lessons with the ultimate goal of riding down a jousting lyst in armour, reaching the opponent and breaking my lance on the target! Obviously, this is a long journey that I am just beginning. This video is my fourth lesson. I never had any experience with horses before now, so I will be sharing little bits of my journey to the tilt and the making of my new Milanese jousting harness with you!

Related articles:
Creating the Tools to Make Armour

Video: Armourer/Filmmaker Eric Dube Raises a Sallet Style Helm with Visor

Extraordinary Video of the Hand-Making of a Single Piece Raised Sallet

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Jeffrey Hedgecock Wins Médiévales Neauphle Le Chateau 2014

The following text and images were provided in their entirety by Gwen Nowrick of WorldJoust:

The first WorldJoust affiliated tournament of the season has been won by Jeffrey Hedgecock of the USA.

Jeff(right) is congratulated on his win by tournament organizer Luc Petillot(left)
(photo by Pauline Massin)

The annual Médiévales Neauphle Le Chateau event is hosted by the Lion’s Club. The event has living history camps and diplays, food, vendors and entertainment, as well as a skill at arms/jousting tournament. The tournament is organized separately by Luc Petillot of ‘Excalibur’. Previously run as an independent tournament, Luc wanted to improve the quality of the tournament, so in 2013 he decided to affiliate with WorldJoust Tournaments, becoming one of four tournaments on the WorldJoust ‘circuit.’

Following the WorldJoust model of invitational tournaments, 6 knights were invited to compete:

Marie Baron, France
Mark Griffin, England
Jeffrey Hedgecock, USA
Luc Petillot, France
Xavier Fauvel, France
Jean-Luc Narbonne, France

Friday’s riding activities were a display/warmup and did not count toward the final scores. The tournament was run on Saturday and Sunday, and consisted of 2 events per day. The morning’s event was skill at arms course which included striking 4 ground shields of decreasing size, quintain, striking a target off a post, ring, javelin throw, cut/thrust, and a halt on a mark to finish. The afternoon’s event was jousting.

On Saturday Jeffrey won the skill at arms but did poorly in the joust. On Sunday he came first in the skill at arms and did well in the joust. The final results of the tournament had Jeffrey winning the Skill at Arms, Marie winning the jousting, and Jeff taking the overall tournament prize for the second year in a row.

Jeffrey shared the victory with second place finisher Marie Baron. Jeffrey explained his decision this way- 'I finished with 60 points, Marie had 59, and the rest of the riders were below 50. Marie rode so well and broke so many lances on Saturday that had she not missed the quintain Sunday morning she would have handily won it. I felt I had to share the win with her.'

In addition to jetlag, one of the challenges facing competitors who travel is riding an unfamiliar horse. Jeff rode 'Diego' a 4 year old Spanish stallion who came from a yard that supplies horses to Napoleonic reenactors. Little was known about the horse, and it was unclear whether he had ever jousted before. Jeff explained ‘I think at first Luc [organizer Luc Petillot] didn't want to tell me that Diego had never jousted. He was rather vague, saying only that he had ridden Diego in armour and that he would be fine with jousting because of all the Napoleonic reenactment Diego had and all that. Given what he said I wasn't sure if he had jousted or not so I was prepared for anything.’

Jeff and Diego get ready to compete in skill at arms(photo by Pauline Massin)

‘After a pass or two it was clear Diego hadn't jousted. He wasn’t afraid at all, he just didn’t understand the job. Thankfully, with a day of getting to know each other under our belt he trusted me, and being a stallion he was pretty fearless and didn't mind armour, lances or the impact and all. He just needed some "coaching" and a little encouragement to understand what he needed to do in the tilt. My experience with Morro [Jeff’s own stallion at home] gave me the tools I needed to work with, and together we sorted it out. Diego is a great horse with a lot of heart, and really responded to kind, clear and decisive direction. He was amazing for the rest of the tournament, and we made a great team. I look forward to riding him again at [the Napoleonic event at] Waterloo next year.’

Jeff travels to Poland at the end of June to compete in the Tournament of King John at Gniew Castle, the second tournament on the 2014 WorldJoust circuit.

-Gwen Nowrick for WorldJoust Tournaments™

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Wouter Nicolai Describes His Experiences Doing a 'Joust at Large'

On June 8, 2014, at the Archeon History Museum in the Netherlands, jousters Wouter Nicolai and Bertus Brokamp of Stichting HEI did a demonstration of a 'joust at large' -- a joust without a tilt. Jousting without a tilt is dangerous, even for experienced jousters(though much practice reduces the danger). Wouter Nicolai has been chosen as Most Chivalrous in several of the tournaments he has competed in, including the recent St Hallvard's Tournament 2014 and the Tournament of the Phoenix 2013. I asked Wouter to write something about his experiences doing the joust at large, and he kindly sent me the following text. Photographers Hans Splinter and Ronin Photography were kind enough to allow me to use their photographs to illustrate the text.

Written by Wouter Nicolai:

The joust at large is one of the tournament forms we have been talking about for a long time, but one that we had never actually tried. The joust at large (or “at random”) is a jousting form done without a tilt, usually followed directly by a melee with the sword. It was done in field armour, using sharp lances and, in most cases, shields.

A joust without a tilt between Sir John Holland and Regnault de Roye, from Jean de Wavrin, Les Choniques d' Angleterre (image provided by Wouter Nicolai)

To me the joust at large is fascinating, because of its simple and straightforward approach. Despite the dangers of the joust itself, this could be done on almost every field with little preparation (of the list). It also seems a very feasible way of organising a small joust by a local squire or knight in the 15th century. We have chosen to present this joust as a pas d'armes because the concept of a challenger and a defendant resonates with the audience, and it is a good format to convey a very real historical context for jousting, needing no more than a small crew and two riders.

Bertus and I have been doing historic jousting demonstrations for years, mainly in the open air museum Archeon in the Netherlands, in these demonstrations we show skill at arms with sword and lance, jousting and melee. Our experience in working together has given us a good starting point for developing this new demonstration of a joust without tilt.

Wouter Nicolai(left) jousts Bertus Brokamp(right) at Archeon 2014(photo by Hans Splinter)

Our demonstration has three parts: First, we start with the challenge to introduce the concept of a pas d' armes to the audience and explain how and why such tournaments were done. The challenge starts with the defendant declaring the pas, and the challenger declaring the challenge. Second, we do the skill at arms with runs on the quintain, as the lance is a knight's primary weapon. In our try-out show, this was a simple shield on a stick, so we could easily remove it before the joust.

Wouter Nicolai strikes the quintain(photo by Hans Splinter)

The next part is with the sword, where the rider encircles cabbages or watermelons and shows different sword techniques. Third, we do the joust itself in two rounds. Both rounds starting with the lance and moving on with a melee weapon (sword or club). We keep fighting until one rider surrenders.

Bertus Brokamp slices a watermelon with his sword(photo by Ronin Photography)

How we do the joust:
Although most if not all readers will understand how dangerous jousting without a tilt can be, I do want to emphasise:  Don't go and casually try a joust at large, it is very dangerous! We have spent a lot of time and effort on proper training before we considered ourselves ready for this challenge.

In a way the runs of joust at large are no different from a charge in the melee, but there are some other factors that play a role in doing a successful pass. The angle in which you approach the opponent is more critical with the lance, especially when using an arret. In general there is less room to manoeuvre due to the length and off-balance of the lance.

In the runs, I try to keep the horse in a slow canter and only speed up when I am certain I am in range and not in risk of getting too close. Adjustment of the distance to the opponent happens by sideways incline, not by changing the direction of the run.

For the first joust, we positioned two cabbage-cutting posts in the track of the run to use as a guide. This did not work because a run without tilt is done differently than on a tilt. Without a tilt, we are constantly adjusting our position sideways, which clearly does not align to a straight track. Once we moved the posts we got much closer, but only close enough to score a few attaints.

Wouter Nicolai(left) and Bertus Brokamp(right) joust without a tilt at Archeon 2014 
(photo by Hans Splinter)

The equipment:
The lances we use for the joust at large are a bit lighter than the lances we normally use. We use poplar inserts, which behave a bit more like real lances than balsa inserts. They are harder to break, and more important (for the audience) is that they make more noise when they hit. The downside of the poplar insert is that if you cannot get close enough you cannot break. We decided that the more realistic sound of an impact was more important than easy breaking.

The first round of melee is done with blunt swords. The sword melee is fought in a more technical way than the club melee, because fighting with swords on horseback is more dangerous and very destructive to armours. The swords are similar to what re-enactors use, although I use a sword which was specifically designed to use in the mounted melee. It has a thicker and more rounded cutting edge (5mm) and is shaped like the swords drawn in Rene d' Anjou's tournament book.

Wouter Nicolai(red)and Bertus Brokamp(blue) fight with swords on horseback
(photo by Hans Splinter)

The clubs are made from a hard rubber, although we will probably use wooden clubs for future demonstrations. They allow us to fight in a more violent way, with less risk of injuring our opponent.

The joust and melee are done in field armours and helmet. We do not have time to change helmets or visors between the joust and melee. The visors of the sallets are locked down with a bolt, to make sure they will not open on the impact of a weapon.

Bertus Brokamp(left) and Wouter Nicolai(right) fight with clubs during a mounted melee
(photo by Hans Splinter)

The shield for this kind of tournament, should be a single curved one, rather than the saddle curve shields we use for the shaped solid lances (i.e. joust of peace). The shield is intended to catch the lance rather than to deflect it. In the photos I am using the saddle curve shield, this was because my war shield was not yet ready to use. It is not an appropriate shield for this style of jousting.

Bertus Brokamp(left) and Wouter Nicolai(right) continue to wear their shields during the melee. Bertus' shield (blue and white) has a single concave curve around a horizontal axis, the correct style of shield for the joust at large. Wouter's shield (gold, black & white) is a saddle curve shield, it curves concavely around a horizontal axis and also curves convexly away from a vertical axis which goes down the center of the shield(like the prow of a ship). This type of shield is not ideal for the joust at large (photo by Hans Splinter)

A last bit of equipment we use to add more safety and historical accuracy is the arret d'cuiras(lance rest). A properly used arret has some advantages. First of all it forces a rider to use a proper historic technique in handling his lance, which is a vertical drop and a precise method of couching it. This keeps the lance tip in the air and out of the way. It also stabilizes the lance during the run, which helps the rider to focus more of his attention to riding his horse.

You can see the arret(lance rest) on the right side(his right) of Bertus Brokamp's armour
(photo by Ronin Photography)

Our joust at large demonstration will once again be done at the Gebroeders van Limburg Festival in Nijmegen (the Netherlands), August 30-31, 2014, and next year in the open air museum Archeon (the Netherlands), May 24-25, 2015.

Wouter Nicolai on his Andalusian stallion Flamenco(photo by Hans Splinter)

Related articles:
Joust for Fun: A Knight and his Axe

The Jousters of St Hallvard's Tournament

Jarek Struczynski Wins the "Tournament of the Phoenix 2013"

Thursday, June 12, 2014

An Interview with Dr. Noel Fallows, Author of Jousting in Medieval and Renaissance Iberia: Part Three

This is the final section of a three part interview with Dr. Noel Fallows. You can read the previous sections in:

Dr. Fallows has a Ph.D. in Spanish from the University of Michigan and has been a faculty member at the University of Georgia since 1992. He served as the Acting Head of the Department of Romance Languages from 1998-2000 and served as the permanent Head from 2000-2007. He is currently the Associate Dean of International and Multidisciplinary Programs in the University's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. His teaching and research interests focus primarily on the medieval and early modern periods. An interview with Dr. Fallows about his research into historical jousting was recently featured in the UGA Research magazine, which is quite an accomplishment since that magazine rarely includes articles about research in the humanities.

This interview has focused primarily on his book Jousting in Medieval and Renaissance Iberia, which serves not only as an academic text book, but also as the most comprehensive source of information on historical jousting for those involved in contemporary jousting.

The interview continues:

Regarding Historic Manuscripts and sources

Throughout your book, you include a number of excerpts (translated into English) of the Libro de la Orden de la Banda (Book of the Order of the Band) relating to the rules of the tourney and of the joust. The complete text has never been translated into English. Have you considered creating a complete English translation of this manuscript for publication? Or do you know of anyone who is working on a translation?

Well, truth be told, I completed a translation of this entire text a few years ago. I need to write an introduction and submit it somewhere for publication. The textual tradition of the manuscripts of this text is mind-bogglingly complex, and needs to be taken into account for this particular study. The best modern edition in Spanish was published in 1993, and this is the one I have used for my translation.

In footnote 22 on page 36 – 37, you mention that “The German tournament books constitute a unique and largely unexplored genre.” Do you know of anyone who is working on translating and publishing these German tournament books?

My latest catalogue from Brepols indicates that Helmut Nickel’s The Nuremberg Tournament Book is due out in 2015.

Page from the Album of Tournaments and Parades in Nuremburg(image from the Met Museum)

Have you considered working with these German texts to create a book on jousting in medieval and renaissance Germany?

I don’t know enough German, and even my book on the Spanish and Catalan texts, with which I have a deep familiarity, took me around 15 years to complete.

What is your opinion of the different styles of jousting in the 16th - 17th century Nuremberg Turnierbuch as described in “A Book of Tournaments and Parades From Nuremberg” by Helmut Nickel and Dirk H. Breiding? (in Metropolitan Museum Journal, v.45, 2010)

No strong opinion about this, except to say that it reflects the fact that jousting was never as simple and straightforward as has been thought. The armours reflect this as much as the texts.

In your book and also in the interview that is posted on the Boydell & Brewer website, you talk about how,”It is not widely known that the best jousters were able not only to wield the lance, but also the pen, in order to lampoon their competitors through the medium of poetry. These poems were circulated at the tournaments.” Do any of these poems survive? If so, where can they be seen? If they are not published anywhere that the public can view them, have you considered publishing them in some form?

See my answer above. These would be tricky to translate, as they are all based on puns and in-jokes, and are often difficult to decipher in the original. The Spanish ones have all been edited really well, with copious explanatory notes, in the following book:

Ian Macpherson. The “Invenciones y Letras” of the “Cancionero General". Papers of the Medieval Hispanic Research Seminar, vol. IX. London: Department of Hispanic Studies Queen Mary and Westfield College, 1998.
[To find a copy in your nearest library, use the WorldCat website.]

In discussing Don Luis Zapata de Chaves' manuscript, Miscelanea, o Varia Historia, you describe it as,”an eclectic compendium of anecdotes and personal memories, all of which, according to the author, are absolutely true.”(p. 57) You also spend the first chapter of your book establishing the credentials of the writers whose work you have translated. With modern texts, people are generally aware that just because something has been written down does NOT make it true. Yet among the general public, there still tends to be a belief that any historical document must, by virtue of its age, be accurate. What is your opinion of the general accuracy of historical documents that describe jousting?

You need to read chronicles and works of fiction with a degree of caution. The technical manuals are better sources of information because the authors were trying their best to be as accurate as possible. Quijada de Reayo’s book is actually a primer for his patron’s son, so he had every reason to be as practical as possible. In Zapata’s case, some of the anecdotes in the Micelánea are gossipy, but he is always deadly serious when it comes to jousting, as his knowledge of this subject was first-hand.

Can you provide examples of historical documents that you believe to be inaccurate in one way or another?

Treat chronicles with some caution – it is imperative to compare as many accounts as possible.

Along similar lines, what is your opinion of the general accuracy of historical drawings and paintings of the joust?

Some are better than others, depending on the skill of the draftsman. For the most part, the examples in my book are remarkably accurate, but there were so many jousts being staged throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance that it would have been fairly easy for an artist at the time to get a sense of what they looked like.

Possibly based on drawings such as figure 96 on the bottom of page 147,...

Jousting right shoulder to right shoulder(image scanned from JMRI fig. 96, p. 147)

...there is a belief among many contemporary jousters that the Italians jousted right shoulder to right shoulder. Do you believe that any group actually jousted that way?

I have to say, No. I think that if holding a pen in the left hand was frowned upon back then, the same was probably true of a lance, and keep in mind that although I (foolishly, thinking back) did not include it in the book, there is another version of that exact same drawing in a manuscript in the British Library where the jousters have been repositioned correctly, left arm to left arm. Don Luis Zapata was a master of the Italian style and he is very forceful on the issue of jousting left arm to left arm. He surely would have let us know if there were exceptions to this fundamental issue.

Various arguments have been presented by other scholars that jousting tournaments were a way of training for war. However, you disagree. “Within the general context of the tournament, and specifically in the case of the joust, the texts discussed in this volume confirm that this activity was an end unto itself...” (p. 240) Do you mean to state that jousting competitions, even in their earliest forms, were never in any way related to training for war?

They were callisthenic, and promoted technical virtuosity with the lance, and esprit de corps, but beyond that, I haven’t seen any concrete contemporary evidence that they were training exercises for a different chivalric activity: war. Certainly Zapata, the pacifist champion jouster, trained to be a jouster, without ever fighting in a war. Quijada de Reayo in his treatise makes a clear distinction between jousting and warfare, without specifying that one is training for the other.

In Conclusion

Would you like to actually put on armour, get on a horse and give jousting a try?

I do not want to try jousting; only write about it and comment on it. I would, however, love to don a complete armour! I could probably also come up with some witty poetry if pushed.

If so, which aspects of modern jousting tournaments would you most like to try? Mounted Skill at Arms? Mounted Melee? Actual jousting/tilting?

None of the above. I am content being a spectator and commentator. I realize that some re-enactors believe that you absolutely must practice jousting in order to be able to write about it, but the kind of work that I do is mostly sedentary (though still exhausting at times!) archival research. The aim of my book is to go far beyond the practicalities of jousting, e.g. I discuss the lives of three practicing champions, the controversial relationship between jousting and warfare, the historical evolution of arms and armour, the political and social implications of competing riding styles, the ethics of Chivalry, its paradoxes, contradictions and tensions, etc.

Pages from the Lo Cavaller manuscript(images scanned from JMRI, p 348-349)

I am fortunate to have good friends that I can rely on if I need to know more about certain concrete, practical details, and to my mind there is no question that my book would have been of much lesser quality without their help. On the flip-side of this, most modern practitioners of the joust do not have years of experience finding previously lost or unknown medieval Spanish and Catalan manuscripts in archives, and then deciphering them, so the relationship is symbiotic. I would say that we need to rely on each other’s skill-sets in order to understand the overall complexities of the sport. That’s what makes us a true, diverse community of experts and enthusiasts.

If you, personally, had the capability of producing your ideal contemporary jousting tournament, what would it be like?

I would shoot for accuracy, with personal preference for sixteenth-century armours and pageantry and follow-up banquet.

What would you like to see happen with contemporary competitive jousting?

Long may it continue.

Are you currently working on a book or translation related to jousting that you would like to tell us something about?

In 2013 I published two new books, as follows: a translation of Ramon Llull’s Book of the Order of Chivalry (Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK, and Rochester, New York, USA: The Boydell Press, 2013); and another book called The Twelve of England. Deeds of Arms Series, Volume 3 (Wheaton, IL: Freelance Academy Press, 2013). These books will both be of interest to The Jousting Life community, I think. Full blurbs as to what they are about are at these web sites:

The Book of the Order of Chivalry

The Twelve of England

I also wrote a lengthy article for an exhibit catalogue: “Masters of Fear or Masters of Arms? Jerónimo de Carranza, Luis Pacheco de Narváez and the Martial Arts Treatises of Renaissance Spain.” In The Noble Art of the Sword: Fashion and Fencing in Renaissance Europe 1520-1630. Edited by Tobias Capwell. London, UK: The Wallace Collection, 2012. 219-235.

Currently I really need to finish the Order of the Band book, especially as I have finished the translation. I am also working on a monograph about the last public duel in Spain, which took place in Valladolid in 1522. I am working on these projects at a leisurely pace, having had a very intensive period of writing and publishing in 2013. And finally, I have been tinkering for some years now on a book about my hobby: a collector’s guide to British army militaria from the Victorian and Edwardian periods.

What's the most important thing you want to people to understand/remember after reading Jousting in Medieval and Renaissance Iberia?

I say in the beginning of the book that Chivalry must be seen to be properly understood, so it’s important to me that the texts that I have studied and translated are always read alongside the images of arms, armour, effigies, manuscript illuminations, paintings, etc. For me, the history of Chivalry is as much a visual as a narrative history.

Dr. Noel Fallows(photo by Dorothy Kozlowski)

This interview began in:
"An Interview with Dr. Noel Fallows, Author of Jousting in Medieval and Renaissance Iberia: Part One"
"An Interview with Dr. Noel Fallows, Author of Jousting in Medieval and Renaissance Iberia: Part Two"

Related articles:
Video: Dr. Noel Fallows Talks About Chivalry and Jousting

Arundel Castle International Jousting Tournament 2013

There are also numerous articles about The Grand Tournament of Sankt Wendel

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

An Interview with Dr. Noel Fallows, Author of Jousting in Medieval and Renaissance Iberia: Part Two

This continues the interview with Dr. Noel Fallows begun in Part One.

Dr. Noel Fallows is the Associate Dean of International and Multidisciplinary Programs in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences within the University of Georgia. He is also a Fellow of The Society of Antiquaries of London. He has written and co-written several books, including:

The Book of the Order of Chivalry
The Twelve of England
The Chivalric Vision of Alfonso De Cartagena: Study and Edition of the Doctrinal De Los Caualleros
Satire and Invective in Enlightened Spain: Crotalogia, O Ciencia De Las Castanuelas

as well as other books and articles dealing with various aspects of Spanish history.

This interview, which began in Part One, focuses on his award winning book:
Jousting in Medieval and Renaissance Iberia.

The interview continues:

Regarding the Rules of jousting

At a tournament in Valladolid, held to commemorate the birth of Charles V's son and heir, you mention how renowned cavalry officer and patron of militaristic treatises Don Beltran de la Cueva(1478?-1559) “In keeping with the festivities, he adopted the persona of 'The Knight of the Serpent' for the duration of the tournament.” (p. 44 – 45). Later, you describe a “fantastic tournament... inspired by the chivalry novel Amadis de Gaula, and called The Adventure of the Enchanted Sword.” (p. 48) How often did knights adopt a persona during a tournament instead of competing under their own name?

This depended on whether or not the tournament had a festive theme of some sort. In the Passo honroso, for example, where the jousts are solemn jousts of war, the competitors all use their regular names, but they come to the enclosure with their visors down so as they can supposedly joust anonymously. At the end of each competition each man raises his visor so as they can recognize each other – a rhetorical conceit known as an anagnorisis, or sudden moment of recognition – and then the winner invites the loser to dinner.

The Spanish jouster Don Luis Zapata says immodestly that he always had trouble jousting anonymously because everyone knew it was him by the distinctive and flashy way that he placed the lance in the lance-rest! He got this idea from his favourite chivalry novel, Amadís of Gaul, as Amadís had the same “problem”. It’s fascinating how back then there was such an interface between the competitions and the popular fiction of the time. As I show in my book, even the presentation of the printed technical manuals emulates the design of the contemporary chivalry novels, a clever sales pitch designed to attract readers and buyers.

Left: The title page of Juan Quijada de Reayo's instructional text Doctrina del arte de la cavalleria
Right: The title page of Garci Rodriquez de Montalvo's fictional text Amadis de Gaula
(images scanned from JMRI, p. 20 & 22)

Was it expected that at certain types of tournaments, everyone would participate in this form of persona play, and that at other tournaments, everyone would compete as themselves? Or did some knights adopt personas and other knights compete as themselves at the same tournaments?

My sense is that you were expected to participate fully in the ethos of the tournament, and that it would therefore be inappropriate to use your own name in a tournament where you were expected to adopt another persona. This, I believe, would make you seem like a spoilsport.

In the tournaments that involved persona play, was the competition any less 'real' than at the tournaments where knights competed under their own names?

I have thought about this a lot! For the Adventure of the Enchanted Sword, the tournament mirrors the novel to such an extent that it almost seems that everyone knew from the start how it was supposed to play out, in which case they were more like actors in a play, but perhaps this was the intention, with some wiggle room for slight differences. In this case the tournament would not have been too different from a modern-day battle reenactment.

In the chapter, “Keeping the Score”, you discuss a number of different historical scoring systems which do not always agree with each other. Sometimes the variance is fairly minor, but other times the different rules seem to directly contradict one another. How do you think this lack of standardization affected the knights, judges and others involved in these various styles of tournaments?

At this time they were attempting to codify the rules so it’s only natural that there were discrepancies. These would have varied from place to place. Even so, the actual lance technique would not have varied so it would just have been a question of checking the rules before starting, and then remembering to abide by them.

Left: Catherine Tranter carefully scribes the scores for each match at the Arundel International Jousting Tournament 2013(photo by Stephen Moss)
Right: The scoring sheet scribed by Catherine Tranter(photo by Catherine Tranter)

You mention that in regards to jousts, Luis Zapata de Chaves preferred team events over one-on-one competitions. What were the differences between team events and individual competitions?

They all still fought one-on-one, but as part of a cohesive team. The evidence suggests that members of each team would have been from the same court, or perhaps the same social class, though if you jousted against the King, he had to win no matter what. See also Zapata’s treatise, p. 393, where he says that the team events move at a much brisker pace and you get to see more lances shatter.

Which kind of tournament, team or individual, do you think occurred more frequently?

Probably both happened equally as frequently.

According to Menaguerra's rules as listed in the chapter “Keeping the Score”: “When royals joust against non-royals, the rules are irrelevant, for the royals always win.” (p. 223) Considering the risks – both political and physical – why do think that non-royals would ever joust against royals?

Generally they didn’t! See Zapata’s treatise p. 392 where the Emperor Charles V is basically pleading with people to joust with him and eventually just orders them to joust with him.

Page 392, showing the original language on the left and Dr. Fallows translation on the right
(scan from JMRI)

On page 248, you describe how attempts to standardize the size of the estoc(a type of sword carried by knights to be used after the lance was discarded) took place during at least four Cortes(legislative meetings) between 1542 and and 1558, and that even after laws were passed creating standardized lengths for estocs, not all blades conformed to these standards(though most apparently did). Considering the difficulties that the Spanish government faced in attempting to standardize one piece of knightly equipment, what do you think it would take to standardize the equipment and rules for contemporary competitive jousting?

Despite the official legislation in the Cortes, these estoc laws were obviously very difficult to implement in practice, or even to make sure that everyone knew about the laws. It would probably be easier now in the sense that communication about such matters is much easier, but you will still have to contend with individual preference for one piece of equipment over another, or one design over another. Also I assume that for modern jousters the armour is still very expensive and you couldn’t possibly own multiple armours based on multiple designs. So there is always going to be incompatibility unless you can all agree on wearing one specific kind of armour from a specific period.

Do you think standardization would be a good idea? Why or why not?

Probably not. Isn’t it more fun to replicate multiple different armours from different periods? It might get boring if everyone absolutely had to wear an Avant armour.

In researching all of these different sets of rules and scoring for jousting tournaments, did you ever theorize an ideal standardized set of rules and scoring for jousting tournaments? If so, what would they be?

To tell the truth, no. In the Introduction, last paragraph, I argue for embracing the tensions, paradoxes and contradictions, which is what makes the concept of Chivalry so fascinating.

Regarding Armour

Even in the same historical time period, a variety of styles of armour could be worn based on regional variation and personal preference. Yet, as part of the 'principle of equality' the armour of competing knights had to be determined to be equal by a set of judges, the king-of-arms and the herald. How well do you believe this 'equality of armour' actually worked in practice?

They must have had to look for basic similarities and consistencies in the context of the time. In the Passo honroso, for example, you were allowed one reinforcing piece, but a specific piece is not specified. That said, if one knight chose to reinforce his pauldron, it is assumed that this is the piece that his opponent would reinforce as well. The lances were also carefully weighed and measured. There were 3 types in the Passo honroso: light; medium; heavy. So he who chose a light lance would have jousted against an opponent with a light-weight lance, etc. I think that this is how they managed this issue.

Which style(s) of armour do you personally prefer in terms of functionality for the joust? In terms of aesthetics? Or for any other reason? And why?

I must say that for all three of the above I really like the fluid yet sturdy look of the mid sixteenth-c. armours, with some conservative etching that adds to the design and style but without being gaudy.

The jousting armour of King Phillip II of Spain is one of Noel's favorite armours. It was made by Wolfgang Grosschedel of Lanshut, c. 1560. The armour currently resides in the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History in Brussels, Belgium(photo copyright Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History)

Regarding Terminology

In your introduction, you discuss why there is such a lack of academic research into European jousting. You mention two scholars (Anglo and Riquer) that complain about the difficulty of understanding the extant texts on the subject, mainly because of the “lack of unified technical vocabularies and the often circumstantial or elliptic descriptions”(p. 9-10) used to discuss jousting. A lack of a standardized vocabulary with which to discuss jousting is still a problem today. How important do you think it is to the sport of jousting to establish a standardized vocabulary?

A standardized vocabulary would probably be beneficial so as to avoid confusion. In the case of the early treatises that I have studied, one reviewer of my book notes that even if you are a native-speaker of Spanish or Catalan you won’t be able to understand these texts without my translation into modern English, such is their impenetrability.

These days we have the luxury of the Internet for instant dissemination of new terminology. In particular in the field of technology, terms that have a standard meaning are adapted to new meanings, e.g. there is adobe (the building material) and there is an acrobat (a type of performer), and then there is Adobe Acrobat. One click on the Internet explains the new meaning.

In the Middle Ages the jousters used the medieval equivalent of the Internet, the printing press, to try to get the word out. The problem is that they often failed to include a definition of the term. A fine example is Ponç de Menaguerra’s treatise which refers to a piece of armour called the “caracol”. The standard definition of this word is “snail”, but that is clearly not the new technological meaning. It took me years to figure out that he was referring to the flaon bolt that holds the shield in place.

The flaon bolt is clearly visible on the left(his left) side of Toby Capwell's jousting armour. You can also see the arret(lance rest) on the other side(photo by Ben van Koert/Kaos Historicalal Media)

Here you can see just the nut that goes with the flaon bolt as it holds Dominic Sewell's ecranche(jousting shield) in place(photo by Ulrike Otto)

Since you prefer to avoid the historically inaccurate phrase 'suit of armour', which of the three more accurate terms that you suggest using instead – 'armour', 'harness' and 'garniture' – is actually your preferred term? And why do you prefer it?

I think in the book I use “armour” the most. It’s an easy and sensible term for what is being described. To me, “garniture” has a more specific meaning of a host armour accompanied by other pieces that can be worn over it. “Harness” is a less familiar term to the general reader.

Are there other words or phrases related to jousting that you see frequently misused that you would like to correct? What are they?

Not that I can think of off-hand. I was dismayed to see in a recent scholarly book about Chivalry which shall remain nameless that the author perpetuates the ridiculous idea that armour was so heavy that knights were hoisted onto their horses by cranes. I just don’t know why this myth persists.

How to Mount a Horse in Armour(video by the Metropolitan Museum of Art)

This interview began in:
"An Interview with Dr. Noel Fallows, Author of Jousting in Medieval and Renaissance Iberia: Part One"

And will be continued in:
"An Interview with Dr. Noel Fallows, Author of Jousting in Medieval and Renaissance Iberia: Part Three"

Related articles:
Video: Dr. Noel Fallows Talks About Chivalry and Jousting

Arundel Castle International Jousting Tournament 2013

There are also numerous articles about The Grand Tournament of Sankt Wendel

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Joram van Essen Wins St Hallvard's 2014

St Hallvard's Tournament, an international jousting competition, took place May 23 - 25, at the historic Akershus Fortress in Oslo, Norway. Ten jousters from three different countries participated in the competition, which included two sessions of jousting and two mounted melees each day. Joram van Essen, who was born in New Zealand, but who currently resides in the Netherlands, won both the jousting competition and the mounted melee competition, and therefore, he earned the title of tournament champion. Joram also won the Grand Tournament of Sankt Wendel in 2012. In both tournaments he was riding his trusty steed Zogo, a beautiful Murgese stallion.

Joram van Essen on his Murgese stallion Zogo(photo by Renate Skeie)
Joram van Essen on his Murgese stallion Zogo(photo by Renate Skeie)

Luke Binks of Australia earned second place overall. He was riding a Norwegian warmblood gelding named Misty, who was born, bred and trained at Trollspeilet, the riding and training center run by jouster Per Estein Prøis-Røhjell and his wife Hanne.

Luke Binks on the Norwegian Warmblood Misty(photo by Renate Skeie)
Luke Binks on the Norwegian Warmblood Misty(photo by Renate Skeie)

And Wouter Nicolai of the Netherlands, riding his Andalusian stallion Flamenco, was chosen by the Ladies as Most Chivalrous. Wouter was also chosen to win the Chivalry Award at the 2013 Tournament of the Phoenix.

Wouter Nicolai humbly bows his head as he accepts the Award for Chivalry at  St. Hallvard's Jousting Tournament 2014 (photo by Renate Skeie)
Wouter Nicolai humbly bows his head as he accepts the Award for Chivalry at 
St. Hallvard's Jousting Tournament 2014 (photo by Renate Skeie)

More details about the tournament will be coming soon.

Related Articles:
An Interview with Joram van Essen: Grand Champion of "The Grand Tournament in Sankt Wendel"

Teaser for the Upcoming Video of the St Hallvard's Tournament

The Jousters of St Hallvard's Tournament

Promotional Video for St. Hallvard's Jousting Tournament

Random Pic: Practicing for St Hallvard's

Monday, June 9, 2014

An Interview with Dr. Noel Fallows, Author of Jousting in Medieval and Renaissance Iberia: Part One

Dr. Noel Fallows is the man who literally wrote the book on jousting, Jousting in Medieval and Renaissance Iberia, that is. It is a must read for anyone interested in the historical aspects of jousting. It was such a ground-breaking academic text that it was awarded both the University of Georgia’s Creative Research Medal and the La Corónica International Book Award for 2012.

Dr. Fallows himself was recently honored by being chosen to receive the 2014 Albert Christ-Janer Award for distinguished achievement in the arts and humanities, which recognizes outstanding bodies of work that have gained broad recognition. He is also a Fellow of The Society of Antiquaries of London.

His award-winning book, Jousting in Medieval and Renaissance Iberia, is divided into two major sections. In the first section, Dr. Fallows shares the information he has gathered regarding historical jousting based on his own work in translating several 15th and 16th century manuscripts. The second section shares his English translations alongside the original text of several of the manuscripts. The book also includes an actual size facsimile of the entire manuscript for Lo Cavaller, originally published in 1493. Even if it only included the translation section, Jousting in Medieval and Renaissance Iberia would still be an invaluable resource for those interested in the history of jousting.

Earlier this year, when I asked Dr. Fallows if he would be willing to do a written interview for The Jousting Life, I was not expecting him to agree. When he agreed to the interview, he was probably not expecting the five pages of questions that I sent him. (I did suggest that he only answer the questions that he found interesting.) He surpassed expectation when he provided answers to almost every single question. He is truly a gentleman and a scholar.

Dr. Noel Fallows in Central Macao 2013(photo from Noel Fallows)

Without further ado, the interview:

What led you to research jousting specifically? (I know you've been asked this before, but...)

I originally set out to write a book about the entire corpus of Renaissance Spanish military manuals, and had already done some work on the little-known jousting manuals. I made a research trip to the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow in 2004 to conduct research on the military books in the R.L. Scott Collection. At that point I realized that a book about all of the Spanish military manuals was going to be much, much more difficult than I had anticipated.

In Glasgow I met Toby Capwell, who was at that time the Curator of the Scott Collection. In a discussion over lunch I realized that there was probably an entire book to be written about the jousting treatises alone, especially if I could count on Toby’s expertise to help me unravel some of the knottiest issues about the texts, which are very difficult to understand. So that’s how it came about.

In the preface to your book, you state, “I hope that it will also be of use to practicing jousting enthusiasts.”(p. xxiii) When did you realize that many contemporary jousters consider your book the most comprehensive source of information about the historical roots of their sport? How does that make you feel?

It’s great. I knew that jousting was still practiced, but that the serious practitioners had very little to go on insofar as the technicalities were concerned, so I decided to write this book as much for the general, interested reader, as well as the academic community. This was quite a new thing to do in my particular field of expertise.

According to the historical documents that you worked with, what made for a really good joust in medieval and renaissance Iberia?

It would have varied from one joust to another. The jousts of war would have been quite solemn –- this is the case with the Passo honroso, for example. In other cases, such as the most elaborate jousts of peace, the mood would have been decidedly festive. In some cases, judging by the account of Luis Zapata, clowns and jesters would initially work the crowd to get everyone in a festive mood, though Zapata also says that he disapproves of this strategy, as it conflicts with his view of jousting as an aristocratic sport.

For the jousters themselves, the tournament could start out ideally with poetry. The jousters would lampoon each other in short, witty poems known in Spanish as “invenciones” before the jousting actually began –- a kind of festive medieval Roast. These poems also became a popular feature in the fictional jousts described in Spanish chivalry novels. Many of these novels were translated into English in Tudor times, at which point the Tudor jousters who read the novels picked up on the poems and started to include them in their own real-life jousts -– an interesting circularity.

The jousters would often be led into the field by heralds and trumpeters, and then ride a preliminary lap around the field, surveying the crowd at the same time as the spectators could admire the jousters’ panoply. It’s clear that at all jousts the spectators were expected to remain silent while the jousters actually ran the courses, so as not to distract them or the horses.

Then of course the best competitions were the ones where the jousters scored solid hits in each course. If you look at my book, there is a good joust described on pp. 437-9, where they strike each other every time and both men jousted so well that it is difficult for the judges to decide who won. Alternatively there is a really bad joust -- 27 courses, mostly misses -- on pp. 412-14. The festival did not end there, however, as the best jousting tournaments would end with a sumptuous banquet in the evening.

Banquet following the Christmas Tournament at Khrabrovo in Russia
(photo by Evgenia A Kamarova)

Based on your research, what do you believe the authors of your historical sources saw as the most important quality of a jouster?

Physically, I describe the knights as “callipygian heroes”, which means that they had shapely buttocks, thighs and legs! Since they wore hoses, this was believed to be where a man’s beauty resided and was easily visible. Also technical virtuosity with the lance, and what the Spanish authors call “mesura”, which basically means “restraint”, as well as other qualities like elegance, wit and general charisma.

What do you believe are the differences between the way the historical knights thought about their participation in tournaments and the way modern jousters view their sport?

Well, for this you will have to get input from the modern jousters. I am guessing that most modern jousters also have a day job that has little or nothing to do with the sport. For the historical knights this was an integral part of their daily lives.

While doing the research for this book, what things surprised you most about the actual accounts of jousting?

How much care and sheer skill went into delivering the lance thrusts, and all of the precautions that were taken to avoid fatal injuries but without diminishing the excitement. I was also struck by the fact that the experts disagree about how best to handle certain issues, such as how to keep the eyes open at the moment of impact: one says you should focus on the tip of your own lance; another says focus on the tip of the opponent’s lance; and still another says that if you keep your mouth open, your eyes should stay open as well.

One of my other interests was to see how the authors were struggling to define the technical terminology of the sport – this is a fascinating insight into the development of technical writing as we have come to know it today, though with no unified technical vocabulary it makes the accounts incredibly difficult to understand.

Was there anything you had to leave out of your book that you wish you could have left in? What was it?

Not really – it’s already a huge book. I have found a lot more stuff since the book was published that I wish I had found earlier on, but that’s the nature of this type of research. Maybe a companion volume will one day be in order!

Have you ever been to a contemporary competitive jousting tournament?

I saw Toby Capwell joust at Hampton Court last year and will be attending the Schaffhausen joust for a few days this summer. I am very interested in seeing how the armour actually works at these historically accurate events.

Dr. Noel Fallows and Dr. Tobias "Toby" Capwell at Hampton Court in August 2013. Noel notes that "Toby’s shoes and skirt are red and black, the colours of the University of Georgia!!"
(photo from Noel Fallows)

Which of the historic figures that you researched for your book did you find most interesting? What made him/her so interesting to you?

One of the jousters is Don Luis Zapata. The complexity of his personality and his life was fascinating. He says that he actually slept in his greaves so as to keep his legs in good shape, and he also seems to have been a pacifist at the same time as he was an expert jouster.

You describe being allowed to handle some extremely rare fifteenth century pieces at the Royal Armouries and state that “Handling such items can best be described as akin to traveling in time, and is one of the great luxuries of being a medievalist”(p. xxvi) Please describe your favorite experience of being allowed to handle a historic artifact.

I enjoyed handling the 1435 armet by Benedetto da Molteno of Milan in the Royal Armouries. One minute I was looking at it through the display case; the next minute I was allowed to handle it, under the supervision of the curator – great stuff. I also handled some great war hammers at the Met Museum in NYC.

“I shall contend in this book that chivalry must be seen in order to be properly understood” (p. 27) How do you think that historical jousting tournaments such as The Grand Tournament of Sankt Wendel help to understand jousting better than by just researching the subject in historical texts?

I think that these are a must. When the armour is static on a mannequin in a museum, you can get some sense of what it is, but only as an artefact or relic. But the best way to understand how it actually worked is to try to reconstruct period armours as accurately as possible and then put them through their paces following the instructions in the historical manuals. By the same token, some of the descriptions in the manuals only really become clear when the armour is worn and tested.

The Grand Tournament of Sankt Wendel(video by Ben van Koert/Kaos Historical Media)

In your discussion of the rapid evolution of jousting armour, you mention that tournaments provided a venue for an international exchange of ideas.
(A) Besides encouraging changes in armour styles, what effects do you think this contact between knights and armourers of different nations had?

One of the new details that I have just discovered that did not make it in time for the book, is a Spanish treatise in which the author is telling King Felipe II that Spain has to have a better contingency of master armourers so as to compete better with the Italians and Germans, so perhaps the international scene promoted a healthy spirit of competitiveness as well as collaboration.

(B) Although international communication is much easier in this day and age, do you think that international sports still have a part to play in encouraging communication between those of different nations?


You describe the sad case of Fernando de Castrionte, Marquis of Civita Sant Angelo, who was killed because he was unaware of, or failed to heed, Quijada de Reayo's statement about reinforcing his reins with chains. (In the battle of Pavia, 1525, the Marquis had his reins cut and lost control of his horse. The horse bolted straight into a platoon of enemy troops who promptly killed the Marquis.) “Proof enough that a strong theoretical background was an asset...”(p. 253) What theoretical knowledge of historical jousting do you think would be most useful to contemporary jousters?

The message I get from the treatises is that you will do the best job and avoid injury if the armour is bespoke and a perfect fit, and the lance-rest must be well sited. When Asbert Claramunt is accidentally killed in one of the jousts of the Passo honroso, his death is attributed to the fact that he had borrowed someone else’s armour and it did not fit properly.

Andrej Pfeiffer Perkuhn(left) and Andreas Wenzel(right) demonstrate how a properly fitted suit of armour is donned and worn during the Grand Tournament of Sankt Wendel. If you look closely, you can see the lance rest(aka arret) on the right side(his right) of Andreas' breastplate. In this picture, it is folded in to be out of the way when not in use.(photo by Bei Litschkovicz)

In this picture of Andreas Wenzel, you can see the lance rest(arret) opened out to allow the butt of the lance to rest upon it.(photo by FAMALEONIS)

This interview will be continued in:
"An Interview with Dr. Noel Fallows, Author of Jousting in Medieval and Renaissance Iberia: Part Two"
"An Interview with Dr. Noel Fallows, Author of Jousting in Medieval and Renaissance Iberia: Part Three"

Related articles:
Video: Dr. Noel Fallows Talks About Chivalry and Jousting

Historical Jousting Tournament at Nyborg Slot in Denmark

There are also numerous articles about The Grand Tournament of Sankt Wendel

Friday, June 6, 2014

Promotional Video for Die Grossen Ritterspiele zu Schaffhausen

Die grossen Ritterspiele zu Schaffhausen (aka The Grand Tournament of Schaffhausen) is a ten day long jousting tournament that will be held in association with a large exhibition of jousting artifacts at the Museum zu Allerheiligen in Schaffhausen, Switzerland. The tournament is being organized by Arne Koets with some help from trainers at the Fürstliche Hofreitschule in Bückeburg, the same people who organized and helped with training the riders for the phenomenal Grand Tournament of Sankt Wendel in 2012.

The tournament will take place July 10 - 20, 2014, and will be held in the Herrenacker -- the central square in the historic area of Schaffhausen. The city of Schaffhausen, and specifically the Herrenacker, were a major venue for jousting tournaments in the late middle ages. For this modern tournament, some of the best historical riders from all over Europe will gather to compete in both the joust and in mounted melees. The competitors will be wearing historically correct armour and riding specially trained horses. During the joust, they will be using shaped solid wood lances with steel coronels. Every effort will be made to create the most historically accurate tournament possible.

Toby Capwell, Arne Koets, Andreas Wenzel, Wouter Nicolai and Luke Binks enter the field for the melee during the Grand Tournament of Sankt Wendel(photo by Oliver Dunsch Photography)

Related articles:
There are numerous articles about the Grand Tournament of Sankt Wendel.

Arne Koets: Tournament Organizer and Jouster at the "Grand Tournament of Sankt Wendel"

An Interview with Arne Koets: Chosen by the Ladies Jury as the Bravest Competitor at "The Grand Tournament in Sankt Wendel"

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Historical Images: More Snail Jousting?

I don't know why I keep coming across images of snail jousting in one form or another, but I do. Since I find them strangely intriguing, I will keep sharing them. I hope you don't mind. This image presented itself on Twitter.

Rabbit and snail joust mounted on monkeys(photo by unknown)

It is significantly different than previous images of snail jousting in that instead of the snail being on its own and being threatened by or threatening a knight or being ridden by naked people, the snail is the one mounted and carrying a lance(sort of). It is mounted on a monkey, but not just any monkey like its opponent the rabbit. The snail is mounted on a monkey who is standing on stilts.

I would really like to know what the artist was thinking when he drew this. Maybe the castle cook accidentally threw a few of the wrong kind of mushrooms in the evening stew. What do you think?

If you find these images oddly interesting and wish to see the previous posts that feature snail jousting, here are the links:

Historical Images: Snail Jousting
This one includes excerpts from academic articles theorizing on the popularity of snail imagery in historical manuscripts.

Historical Images: Naked Snail Jousting