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Combat during a piston tournament

In a tournament in the Middle Ages, several individuals or groups competed against each other in a tournament (from Middle High German tournament "fighting game" and tournaments the horse "romping around, turning, turning") . The current term tournament for sporting competitions is derived from it.

Historic tournaments

Knight tournament in Munich before Albrecht IV of Bavaria in 1500
Festive ring race at the wedding of Johann Wilhelm von Jülich-Kleve-Berg with Jakobe von Baden-Baden on June 18, 1585 in Düsseldorf - Pempelfort
Walther von Klingen in the tournament

A tournament is, among other things, a knightly fighting game. The written rules were called Cartell .

There were individual fights in various branches, such as sword fighting and lance piercing ( Tjost ), but also mass fights ( Buhurt ) with blunt weapons . The medieval tournament developed out of the combat exercises of the warriors and later degenerated into a pure show for the people . Early late medieval genealogists and authors such as Georg Rüxner resorted to often fictitious lists of participants in tournaments in their plan to provide noble families with an ancestral list that goes as far back as possible . In the course of the 12th century the tournament became a major event, as musicians, animal tamers and jugglers performed alongside knights. The organizer was able to show off his wealth here.

Knight tournaments are played out in front of an audience at medieval events by stuntmen . See also reenactment .

Noble tournament

The original sponsor of the tournaments was knighthood as the central manifestation of the medieval social order. The knighthood emerged in the course of the disputes over the crumbling empire of the Carolingians in the 9th and 10th centuries as a military response to the progressive equestrian tactics of the Normans , Magyars and Saracens . All in all, it formed a rapidly moving (and therefore mounted), progressively armed (armored) group specializing in warfare in particular, in which a class consciousness with precisely defined class culture and class rituals quickly developed. Due to its dense and professional structure as well as its symbolic, cultural and moral patterns, this awareness increasingly developed its effects on the entire nobility.

The precondition for the military effectiveness of this group was the military exercise; The basis for maintaining the fighting power of the armored riders was constant training combined with the formulation of a fixed canon of exercises for specific attack and defense figures. The tournament formed the framework for these exercises or “maneuvers”. If the tournament originally arose from a military necessity, it gradually developed as a free, knightly fighting game to the core and climax of knightly or noble culture par excellence. As a result of the intensive training for such tournaments, there were soon teachers who taught the martial arts and tournament professionals who went from tournament to tournament and were able to earn a considerable income. Probably the most successful of all times was William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke , who took advantage of the boom in tournaments and not only acquired ransom for around 500 knights, but also rose to his nobility rank through lands.

With reference to the military reality, different types of tournaments emerged which corresponded to the military operations on the battlefield. First of all, there was the so-called Buhurt , a mass tournament in which two piles burst against each other at high speed and had to push each other out of the saddle. While this was originally the most widespread form of tournament, the increasing relocation of the festivities to the cities of the late Middle Ages for economic reasons ensured that the so-called joust , a duel of well-trained armored riders who clashed at a hard gallop, gave each other a blunt lance step out of the saddle and often had to deliver a sword duel came to the fore. The joust could be carried out better in the squares of the late medieval cities than the expansive Buhurt. In the 15th and early 16th centuries , the tournament forms of the Welschen Gestech and the race experienced a strictly formalized heyday, with which the age of tournaments also passed.

It is crucial that participation in the tournament was reserved only for noble knights and knights by birth from the start. Each tournament participant had to undergo a coat of arms test by the game-directing Herald . This original exclusivity made the tournament, in connection with its function as the highest expression of knightly or aristocratic, in particular land-based aristocratic living environment and culture, an ideal form of representation of the nobility, especially and also in terms of differentiation from other social groups.

This can be found institutionalized in the tournament societies in southern Germany in the late Middle Ages: The honor of the tournament societies required legitimate behavior on the part of the members in everyday life. Tournament regulations served the festive pomp of the court, the tournament; but they also repeatedly pointed back from the festival to the everyday existence of the nobility and their obligations in the world. The German tournament societies were therefore anything but an escape into an illusory world of past knightly high culture.

Tournament weapons

The venue or rather the playing field of this noble representation was originally the inner courtyard of the core castle or the Zwinger . However, the nobility increasingly relocated the knightly fighting games to the immediate vicinity of the cities or even to the cities themselves, on whose marketplaces the stony ground was covered with thick piles of straw to protect horse and rider from falls. In this respect, the medieval city served as a stage for aristocratic amusement and class games and the citizens of the city as an audience for the aristocratic competition. The increasing bourgeois adaptation of the tournament as a festivity of the city motivated the nobility to implement demarcation measures also in the area of ​​the tournament.

The land-based nobility reacted to the development that wealthy citizens afforded expensive armor and coats of arms themselves, and subsequently founded aristocratic and tournament societies, the aim of which was to exclude commoners from certain areas of the aristocratic world. For the area of ​​the tournament, tournament regulations - such as the Würzburg tournament register of 1479 or the Heidelberg tournament regulations of 1485 - were formulated that excluded all those who were not able to participate in tournaments who were trading, which primarily meant the urban patriciate . However, these regulations also tried to encourage their own class members via the tournament code of ethics to self-assure themselves if they classified cases in which nobles married under their class or traded as merchants under the dishonest behavior that excluded the tournament:

“Item all those who stay out of the aristocracy, with whom one likes to play tournaments and tighten whoever wants. Item everyone who buys or trades from adel or puts them with them as other common merchants, they should be tightened ” .

Jost Amman : Journeyman pricking of the patrician sons in Nuremberg, 1561

Internationally, the north Italian tournament rules prevailed, which above all standardized the point ratings, which regulated where you should hit the opponent in order to win the fight if no one was lifted from the saddle. The tournament rules are an early example of modern quantification in sport. But the example of the tournament also shows the ambivalence of aristocratic behavior, the parallelism of increasing demarcation systems and progressive turning towards the city and its citizens. Tournaments are increasingly being relocated to medieval cities by the rural nobility for reasons of cost and for the sake of representation. At the end of this development in the 16th century, it was clear that - with a clear focus on the Upper German and Austrian area - the sole venue for tournaments was the royal cities, etc. a. Innsbruck , Vienna , Munich , Heidelberg and Dresden , were.

The reason for the move to the cities was that the costs of the tournament rose and the medieval city was increasingly valued as an organizer and sponsor by the local nobility. In addition, the city offered a much better infrastructure for a tournament which was but no longer any nobles able to own on his country estates artisans of Rüstkunst that Plattner reproach. With their playful and representative character becoming independent, the tournaments in the cities became more and more a matter for the financially efficient upper class of the nobility. Even the tournament harnesses made by special workshops cost a fortune - quite apart from the fact that, in the end, splendor armor and tournament toolmakers could only be found in the big cities.

In the course of the 16th century the great knight tournaments were finally stopped; first in France in 1559, after the French King Henry II was killed in a tournament on June 30, 1559 . In Germany tournaments continued for a few decades. Tournaments are e.g. B. on the occasion of the wedding of Duke Wilhelm V with Renata of Lorraine in 1568 and the wedding of Charles II. Franz of Inner Austria with Princess Maria Anna of Bavaria in 1571. Other tournaments at court festivals in Munich are documented in 1603 and 1613. After the Thirty Years' War, the tournament performances, now part of the courtly festivals, diverged even more from the original combat and war exercises.

Reference today

The International Golden Roof Challenge - with pole vault - in front of the Golden Roof in Innsbruck, uses a knight in the form of a knight's armor with a long tournament pole as a mascot , as tournaments were fought on the square in the Middle Ages.

Tallbike - Jousting is part of modern cycling culture . Two cyclists on two-wheelers, tall bikes with high saddles are particularly challenging, ride one-handed and hold a long, light bar that is padded at one end in their free hand. On lanes separated by a line on a level meadow, they just pass each other and try to knock each other over with a push with the pole.

Modern tournaments

In 1912, the term tournament found its way into German usage as a name for a competition in equestrian sport ( riding tournament, driving tournament, jumping tournament, etc.). This year the magazine St. Georg asked the readers to find a German word for the internationally common Concours Hippique . Tournament and riding and driving show were proposed equally often, a jury decided on the former, based on the historical knight tournament, which was also held with horses.

The aim of a tournament is to determine the best player, the best athlete or the best team.

There are many different forms of tournaments . The best known and most effective today are sports and games tournaments in which people compete against each other in sporting and playful disciplines, e.g. B. football or chess tournaments . But there are also tournaments in lesser-known disciplines; debating clubs, for example, organize debating tournaments.

The participants do not necessarily have to measure their skills with one another directly. In robot tournaments, robots compete against each other as direct opponents in various disciplines, from labyrinth races to robot soccer , whereby the skills of the developers are indirectly compared with one another. There are similar tournaments in the purely virtual software area; a classic example is war of the kernels , in which programs fight for their "survival" in a simulated computer memory.

Individual evidence

  1. John M. Carter: Sports History in Medieval Biographies. William Marshal (ca.1146-1219). In: Arnd Krüger , Bernd Wedemeyer-Kolwe (Hrsg.): Learn sports history from biographies. Festschrift for the 90th birthday of Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Henze. Lower Saxony Institute for Sports History, Hoya 2000, ISBN 3-932423-07-0 , pp. 67–78.
  2. ^ Joachim K. Rühl : Regulations for the Joust in Fifteenth-Century Europe: Francesco Sforza Visconti (1465) and John Tiptoft (1466), International Journal of the History of Sport , 18 (2001): 193-208.
  3. ^ John McClelland: Sports quantification in Tudor and Elizabethan tournaments , in: John M. Carter, Arnd Krüger (eds.): Ritual and record: sports records and quantification in pre-modern societies. New York: Greenwood Press, 1990.
  4. Joachim Schneider, Tournaments (Middle Ages / Early Modern Times) , in: Historisches Lexikon Bayerns.
  5. Fusenig, Anette: How to invent a 'World Equestrian Festival' - The Aachen show jumping, riding and driving tournament 1924-1939 ., Diss phil. RWTH Aachen , 2004, p. 49 online


  • F. Cardini, Ph. Contamine, A. Ranft, P. Schreiner: Tournament . Lexikon des Mittelalters, Vol. 8, Stuttgart (1977) -1999, 1113-1118. Brepolis Medieval Encyclopaedias - Lexicon of the Middle Ages Online, accessed January 3, 2012.
  • David Crouch: The Tournament . Hambledon & London, London 2005, ISBN 1-85285-460-X .
  • Richard Barber, Juliet Barker : The history of the tournament , Artemis & Winkler, Düsseldorf and Zurich, 2001
  • Reinhard Bentmann : Epilogue in: JH von Hefner-Alteneck (Hrsg.): Hans Burgkmaier's tournament book . Reprint 1978, Dortmund 1980, pp. 71-89.
  • Sigmund Feyerabend: Thurnier book: From the beginning, Vrsachen, Vrsprung vnd Origin of the Thurnier in the Heyligen Roman Empire Teutscher Nation, how much public country tournament from Keyser Heinrich the First of this name to the now reigning Keyser Maximilian ... Getrukt zu Frankfurt am Mayn MDLXVI (tournament reports the period from 900 (Heinrich I (Eastern Franconia)) to 1566 (Maximilian II (HRR)) printed in 1566 with numerous illustrations, viewed on October 29, 2009)
  • Josef Fleckenstein (Ed.): The knightly tournament in the Middle Ages . Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1985, ISBN 3-525-35396-0 .
  • P. Johanek: Nobility and City in the Middle Ages . In: N. Reimann (Ed.): Adel und Stadt . Lectures at the colloquium of the United Westfälische Adelsarchive e. V. from October 28 to 29, 1993 in Münster (Vereinigte Westfälische Adelsarchive e.V., publications no. 10), Münster 1998, pp. 9–35
  • Herbert Obenaus : Law and constitution of the companies with St. Jörgenschild in Swabia . Studies on nobility, unification, arbitration tribunals and feuds in the fifteenth century (= publications of the Max Planck Institute for History , No. 7), Göttingen 1961.
  • Hans Kurt Schulze : Basic structures of the constitution in the Middle Ages . Volume II: Family, clan and gender, house and farm, village and market, castle, Palatinate and royal court, city (= Kohlhammer-Urban pocket books , volume 372). 3rd, improved edition, Kohlhammer, Stuttgart / Berlin / Cologne 1992, ISBN 3-17-016393-0 .
  • Thomas Zotz : Nobility in the city of the German Middle Ages. Appearances and behaviors . In: Zeitschrift für Geschichte des Oberrheins 141. 1993, pp. 22–50
  • Peter Jezler , Peter Niederhäuser, Elke Jezler (eds.): Knight tournament. History of a festival culture , book accompanying the exhibition in the Museum zu Allerheiligen Schaffhausen, Quaternio Verlag, Lucerne 2014, ISBN 978-3-905924-23-7 .

See also

Web links

Commons : Tournament  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Tournament Science  - Sources and Full Texts