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Medieval Jousting Terms

Medieval life and Times

Medieval Jousting Terms
Medieval jousts were dictated by tradition, ceremonies and specific codes of conduct. Many of the Medieval Jousting Terms are in French a reflection of the court language which was introduced following the Battle of Hastings when the French Normans under William the Conqueror achieved victory over the English.

The French language was used for some considerable time and great English kings such as Richard the Lionheart only spoke French! Medieval jousting terms used during the Middle Ages include some of the following words and phrases:

  • Lists - The 'lists' were barriers which defined the battlefield in a tournament
  • Tilt - A tilt was a barrier introduced in the 14th century to prevent jousting collisions
  • Joust a plaisance - A series of elimination jousting contests which were held over over several days. An overall jousting winner would be determined
  • Pas d'armes or passage of arms Jousting event - A Knight would send out a proclamation that he would take on all jousting challengers at a specific time and place
  • 'À la toille' - A jousting event 'À la toille' was held on either side of a barrier. Prior to the 15th century, jousting events were conducted in the open rather than on either side of a barrier, which made the event much more dangerous
  • Atteint: Atteint was a common term used to determine a hit in a joust
  • Berfrois - Grandstand which housed the ladies and nobility watching the jousting tournament
  • Challenge: Calling another combatant out to combat, a challenge was either 'à plaisance' meaning friendly, or 'à la guerre' as in war
  • Coup de Grace: The death-blow a knight gave to his mortally wounded opponent
  • Mêlée: A Melee was a team combat or ‘free for all’ where teams or groups of individuals met in the field
  • Pas d’Armes: A form of tournament 'à plaisance' where combatants met to exchange pleasantries and test their skills against one another
  • Club Tourney - Two teams using blunt swords and clubs tried to knock the crests off their opponents helmets
  • Recess: A recess was a safe area where horsemen and knights could gather and rest without fear of capture
  • Venans: The Venans were the challengers in a pas d’armes
  • Tenans: The Tenans were the defenders in a pas d’armes
  • Vespers Tourney: A tournament held on the eve of a larger event, where the younger knights bachelor and squires had an opportunity to demonstrate their prowess before the other knights and assembled gallery
  • Invocation: The ceremony used to start a tournament or pas d’armes
  • Tree of Shields: The place where several colored shields were hung for a pas d’armes. Challenging knights could choose the combat they required by hitting the shield
  • Nail Money: This referred to the money paid to a tournament herald for nailing the challenging knight’s shield to the tree of shields
  • Pavilions were the name given to the bright, round medieval tents of alternating colors which housed the combatants and surgeons

Medieval Jousting Terms
An understanding of the Medieval jousting terms provides an understanding and overview of the Medieval era, the joust and the tournament. Click one of the following links for further comprehensive facts and information about the Medieval Jousting Tournaments:

Medieval Tournaments
Medieval Knights Jousting
Medieval Jousting Tournaments
Medieval Jousting History
Medieval Jousting Terms
Jousting Lance
Knights Tournaments
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