Tournaments were extreme sporting events that were often organised to show royal or noble power. Like modern elite sports events, many tournaments were lavish displays that brought together competitors and spectators from far and wide.
Some tournament contests were fought on horseback, others on foot, but all needed strength, skill and bravery. Tournament competitors also needed expensive equipment, often wearing armour carefully designed to reduce risk of injury or death. Later tournament armour was also beautifully decorated. Like present-day sports kit, it often combined the latest technology with style and fashion.
Tournaments through time
Tournaments probably began in the 11th century as mock battles between two opposing teams and provided good training for war.
At first they used weapons and wore protective armour that were the same as they used in battle. Gradually special armour was created for the different tournament events, in response to the particular threats of the lance, sword and axe.
Like some sports armour today, improvements to safety were constantly made and fashions changed so that champions looked good as well as stayed safe.
Tournaments became spectator events, often with lavish costumes and prizes. As a colourful and dangerous spectacle the tournament lasted 600 years.