07-009 Chivalry in Medieval Tournaments
Vol. 07 No. 009 02/24/2013
Lead: One of the means used to bring some order out of chaos in Medieval Europe was the tournament, a martial event organized under an elaborate Code of Chivalry.

Intro: A Moment In Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: In the centuries following the collapse of the Roman Empire, Western Europe struggled to create some semblance of order in the absence of centralized authority, reduced travel and communications, and the almost constant invasions from East Asia, the Islamic south, and Scandinavia. In such extreme circumstances it is small wonder that there evolved a warrior class which increasingly competed with the Roman Catholic Church for domination in society. Rough, uneducated, skilled in the arts of war, these fighters gradually came to be known as knights. In the high medieval period, from about A.D. 1000 to 1400, with outside threats receding and seeking outlets for their restless energies, knights would compete in elaborate regional tournaments to sharpen their fighting skills, generate income and settle personal grievances.

These tournaments were governed by an intricate set of rules known as the Code of Chivalry. Modern scholars examining the martial poetry of the time have determined, to a degree, the broad outlines of this Code. The purpose of the Code was to reign in the natural aggressive instincts of the knights and to use this energy for society's benefit. Knights were to defend and protect the Lord, the downtrodden and the Church. Ironically, these events were stoutly opposed by the Church. Despite such opposition by 1300, with sometimes deadly combat, tournaments were a regular feature of European social and cultural life.

Research assistance by Dennis Carnes. The producer of A Moment In Time is Steve Clark. At the University of Richmond, this is Dan Roberts.


Barber, Richard. The Knight and Chivalry. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1970.

Duby, Georges. William Marshal: The Flower of Chivalry. New York: Pantheon Books, 1985.

Gautier, Leon. Chivalry. Jacques Levron, Ed. Translated by D.C. Dunning. New York: Barnes and Noble, Inc., 1965.

Copyright 2013 by Dan Roberts Enterprises, Inc.