The Middle Ages are not only pain, decay, and decadence. There was enough entertainment in this era, and many of them were quite calm and peaceful, like the same chess. However, some of the popular entertainment of the Middle Ages correspond to their era and show how hard and crazy that time was.
10 medieval entertainment that shows how crazy that time was
1. La soule
If you think that modern football is a tough enough sport, you’ve never heard of La Soule. This sport originated in Normandy, and it had simple rules: there were two teams, often two different villages, and the game’s goal was to throw the ball over the opponents’ line.
From 20 to 200 players could participate in the game, but sometimes even more than 500 participants came to the match. There were no rules, and everything was allowed; tough, aggressive, and violent behavior. And it’s not about pushing and tripping, but also about beating the enemy and even stabbing. To get the latest stories, install our app here
The game could last for several days and sometimes lead to serious consequences with the death of people. La Soule was so dangerous that monarchs wrote decrees banning this cruel sport.
If the previous entertainment was for the “rabble”, hunting is a rest for “noble” persons. And medieval hunting had little in common with modern hunting, except that wild animals are killed there and there. When hunting was done for fun, the nobles, trying to impress each other, competed in marksmanship, javelin throwing, etc. Specially bred breeds of dogs were set against the animals, which literally tore apart the victim.
But don’t think that hunting was dangerous only for animals. Often people died on the hunt, and not only servants directly chased the beast, but also noble persons, including kings. They fell from their horses, broke their necks, bumped into their spears, were trampled by angry boars and bears, etc. To get the latest stories, install our app here
In some cases, in the early Middle Ages, people could also be hunted, especially so-called poachers. If in our times a poacher is a ruthless exploiter of resources who kills animals for the sake of profit or self-esteem, then in those days, he was considered to be anyone who dares to hunt for food in places where ordinary people were forbidden to appear.
Before the 1800s, cat-burning was a type of zoosadistic entertainment in Western and Central Europe throughout the Middle Ages.
People would collect hundreds of cats in a net and hoist them high into the air from a particular bundle into a bonfire, bringing death by burning or other consequences of exposure to severe heat in this kind of amusement.
Cats, which were connected with vanity and witchcraft in the medieval and early modern eras, were occasionally burnt as devil symbols.
Long before hockey, when skates, even with bone blades, were a costly thing, a sport called shinty was born. It was a team game with clubs and a ball on the grass. Each team has 12 players, and the goal is to score the ball into the opponent’s goal with a stick. It is similar to modern hockey, but some differences make this game tougher. To get the latest stories, install our app here
So, it was allowed to use the stick literally as you like, for example, hitting the ball in the air right in front of the opponent’s face. It was allowed to push, fight, knockdown, and so on. And each match consisted of two halves of 45 minutes, so you can imagine how exhausted the players were at the end of the game.
And the most important thing that made this sport so harsh was the lack of protection. If hockey has protective equipment, including strong helmets, then shinty did not have it. It was easy to be left without teeth and a broken nose, just next to the ball when the opponent decides to hit it in the air with a stick.
We imagine knights in shining armour with swords when we hear about the Middle Ages. They fought mostly with spears and bows. However, plate armour appeared only at the end of the Middle Ages, and swords were like Ferraris today, as they were expensive and status items.
The bow was such a popular weapon that everyone could shoot from it. And in some countries, for example, in England in the middle of the 13th century, every man was legally obliged to own a bow. Contests organized by the state also stimulated this.
The winner in the shooting received a monetary reward, as well as a chance to get into the elite troops of the king. Since archery was made an entertainment, the British successfully smashed troops superior in numbers and equipment. To get the latest stories, install our app here
So all these scenes with an apple on his head, when an experienced archer wanted to impress the audience, are not completely fiction. The shooting was carried out not only on stationary targets but also, for example, on wild animals.
Shillelagh originated in Ireland and was a very simple entertainment from the point of view of mastering. The essence of it was that two people fought on – a kind of bits, the length of which was a little more than a meter.
The winner was the one who got a stick so much that he fell to the ground and was unable to cope with the opponent. Even though it looks more like a drunken brawl with improvised means, this entertainment had its own rules prohibiting serious and mean blows. In addition, shillelagh was used as entertainment and to resolve disputes.
7. Animal baiting
If an animal rights activist had gotten into the Middle Ages, he would have gone crazy from the degree of inadequacy that was going on in those days. Back then, in many countries, animal baiting was not just acceptable but even encouraged because it allowed entertaining the crowd. To get the latest stories, install our app here
Typical bullying looked like this: a bear or bull was brought into the arena, after which they tied it to a pole and stuffed pepper into his nose, which enraged the animal. Then dogs were launched into the arena, which attacked the wild animal and literally tore it to pieces. All this was watched by the crowd, who made bets on how long the animal would last, how many dogs it would injure, etc. This “fun” lived for a long time, and it began to be banned only at the beginning of the 19th century.
One of the most popular entertainments of the Middle Ages, which was not as popular as hunting and archery. It’s just that tournaments seem to movie makers to be a more romantic event than the cruel baiting of animals by dogs, so it is shown more often.
Contrary to the misconception, the jousting tournament consisted not only of a competition when two noble knights in armour raced towards each other with spears on horseback to knock the opponent out of the saddle. But, again, because of the movies we watch, we believe that the jousting tournament is exactly the same competition.
There were several stages in the tournament, including sword or mace fights between two knights, an imitation of a real war, where two groups of knights fought against each other with blunted swords, and so on. To get the latest stories, install our app here
Usually, tournaments are shown as something fun and quite safe, where the maximum that threatens a participant is a concussion due to a spear hitting a helmet. But in reality, the tournaments of the 12th and 13th centuries were distinguished by a high level of injuries and mortality since, at that time, they were held using real combat weapons.
At tournaments, they died not only from weapons but also, for example, being trampled by their own horses. The very barrier that stands between the knights rushing towards each other appeared only at the beginning of the 15th century. Before that, participants sometimes collided at full gallop and received serious injuries. But the public did not care about this because the main thing is the spectacle, and the jousting tournaments gave this in full.
9. Apple Bobbing
Bobbing for apples is a British tradition that goes back to the Roman conquest of Britain when the invading army combined their own celebrations with native Celtic feasts.
The Celtic festival Samhain adopted apple bobbing, with apples as a symbol of fertility and wealth. Young unmarried people attempt to bite into an apple floating in the water or hanging from a thread on a line during an annual festival; the first person to bite into the apple is the next person to be permitted to marry.
During the medieval periods, a jester, fool, or joker was a member of a nobleman’s or monarch’s household who was hired to entertain visitors. Jesters were nomadic entertainers who delighted the general public at fairs and town markets, and the discipline is still practised today, with jesters performing at historically themed events. To get the latest stories, install our app here
Jesters are believed to have worn a patchwork pattern of brilliantly colored clothing and quirky caps throughout the Middle Ages. This attire is commonly imitated by its contemporary equivalents. Jesters used a range of abilities to amuse their audiences, including singing, music, and storytelling. Still, they also used gymnastics, juggling, telling jokes (including puns, stereotypes, and mimicry), and performing magic tricks. A lot of the entertainment was done comically.