Mounted mêlée in Schaffhausen

Chivalry and Tournaments

Chivalry and Tournaments – the story of a late medieval festival

This summer in Schaffhausen in Switzerland an exhibition at the Allerheiligenmuseum tells the story of the late medieval tournament and how it was turned into a popular festival.

Schaffhausen was one of the popular places to stage these events, which were often organised in connection with carnival just before lent. One such event, which is well documented, was the tournament in February 1436.

The festivities started with the Mêlée with more than 200 participants divided into two companies lined up at each end of the field. Attacking each other from either end the field soon turned into more than a staged fight. One key skill was for the participants to be able to “turn” their horse after the first encounter in order to attack once more, hence the name: tournament.

Illustration from the tournament book of King René of Anjou
Illustration from the tournament book of King René of Anjou

Later the actual tournament took place where the combatants fought one to one. Participants were only allowed to take part if the ladies present had previously judged them honourably; if not, people attacked them with clubs or fists or they forfeited their armour and horse. Such un-chivalric misdemeanours like adultery were judged very harshly, something which Count Wilhelm of Baden-Hochberg experienced in 1436

After the tournament proper, the fight went on with swords. Here it was the object to heave off the heraldic symbols topping the helmets. Finally the tournament ended with a party where prizes were given out and general merriment was on the agenda.

The Exhibition

The central focus of the exhibition is Schaffhausen this summer is the development of the tournament armour – helmets, weapons, shields, masks and other paraphernalia. The exhibition is graced with a number of spectacular loans from Vienna. Thematically it covers the history from Antiquity and onwards. However, focus is clearly on the 15th and 16th century, the period when tournaments became part of an ubiquitous festival culture in Late Medieval Germany – uniting peasants, burghers, the gentry as well as the nobility. A number of so-called tournament books are also presented with specific illustrations made available on ipads placed next to the exhibit.

Devoid of the ubiquitous audio-guide, the visitor is allowed to enjoy the many treasures without interruption. At the end of the exhibition visitors are invited to try out helmets, gloves and other paraphernalia.

The exhibition is partnered with the summer-exhibition in Mannheim on Maximilian I and his role as “the Last Knight”

Ritter Turnier – Geschichte einer Festkultur
Museum zu Allerheiligen
Klosterstrasse 16
8200 Schaffhausen
10.04.2014 – 21.09.201


The exhibition was accompanied by a large jousting event in July as well as an academic conference. If you missed the tournament in July, reports – TV, blogging photos can be found here:

My name is Toby – and I have always wanted to be a knight
Video from the Tournament Schaffhausen 2014 where Toby Capwell explains his passion for Jousting. Tobias Capwell is curator of Arms and Armour at the Wallace Collection London.

Photos from Schaffhausen 2014

TV nws coverage of the Grand Tournament at Schaffhausen


ritter-TournierRitterturnier. Geschichte einer Festkultur
By Peter Jezler, Peter Niederhäuser (eds)
Quaternio Verlag Luzern
ISBN 978-3-905924-23-7