Weapons of Medieval Jousting

Lances and Armor: The Primary Weapons of Medieval Jousting

Medieval jousting was a thrilling spectacle that captured the hearts and minds of people for centuries. At the center of this exhilarating sport were the primary weapons of jousting – lances and armor. These weapons were crucial to a knight’s success in the jousting arena, and the code of chivalry was central to their use.

The tilting lance was the primary jousting weapon used by knights, and it was designed to be both long and sturdy. Jousting shields were also an essential component of a knight’s arsenal, as they provided additional protection against opponents’ lances.

Chivalry governed the conduct of knights during jousting competitions, emphasizing the values of honor, fairness, and bravery. These moral and ethical principles were as important as the weapons themselves and played a key role in shaping the sport of jousting.

Key Takeaways

  • The primary weapons of medieval jousting were lances and armor.
  • The tilting lance was the primary jousting weapon used by knights.
  • Jousting shields were essential in providing additional protection.
  • Chivalry governed the conduct of knights during jousting competitions.
  • The values of honor, fairness, and bravery were as important as the weapons themselves.

The Importance of Jousting Weapons

When it comes to medieval jousting, the weapons used were not only crucial to a knight’s success but also central to the spectacle of the event. While other weapons such as swords and maces were used in various forms of combat, jousting weapons were specifically designed for the sport and had unique features to ensure safety and effectiveness.

The Role of Jousting Weapons

Jousting weapons were not only a means of asserting dominance over an opponent but also a symbol of a knight’s stature and skill. The choice of weapon was essential, with different lances suited to different types of jousting competitions. Some lances, such as the ’tilting lance,’ were longer than others and allowed for greater speed and impact during the joust.

Shields were another essential piece of equipment for jousting. Jousting shields were larger and heavier than traditional shields and were designed to protect the knight from their opponent’s lance during the competition.

The Design of Jousting Weapons

Jousting weapons were not only functional but also ornate. Knights often had their lances and shields decorated in their heraldic colors, making them easily recognizable to spectators. The design of jousting weapons also evolved throughout the medieval period, with early lances having small heads that gradually increased in size to maximize the impact during the joust.

The Impact of Jousting Weapons on Performance

The design of jousting weapons was critical to a knight’s performance in the arena. A well-crafted lance could mean the difference between a successful joust and a humiliating defeat. The length and weight of the lance impacted the speed and accuracy of the joust, and the shield’s size and weight could affect a knight’s mobility and balance.

The Enduring Legacy of Jousting Weapons

Even though jousting is no longer a popular sport, the legacy of jousting weapons lives on. The design of the lance has influenced the design of modern-day equestrian sports such as show jumping, and the use of shields and armor has influenced the design of modern-day protective gear in other combat sports.

“A successful knight in a jousting competition was not just skilled but also well-equipped, with the right weapons and armor to ensure their success and safety.”

  • Jousting weapons were crucial to a knight’s success and safety in the arena
  • The choice of weapon was important with different lances suited to different types of competitions
  • Design evolved throughout the medieval period with early lances having small heads that gradually increased in size.
  • The design of the weapon impacted a knight’s speed, accuracy, mobility, and balance in the arena
  • The legacy of jousting weapons lives on and has influenced modern-day equestrian sports and protective gear in combat sports

The Mighty Lance

The tilting lance was the primary jousting weapon used by medieval knights, and it was expertly crafted to withstand the force of impact during jousting battles. Jousters would aim their lances at their opponents’ shields, attempting to knock them off their horses and gain victory in the tournament.

The lance typically measured between 10 and 14 feet in length and was made of sturdy materials such as ash or oak. The weapon’s design allowed knights to deliver maximum force and precision while keeping their bodies protected. Jousters would grip the lance with both hands, using their body weight and the momentum of their horse to thrust the weapon forward with great force.

The impact of two lances colliding at full speed was a spectacle to behold, and it was often the deciding factor in a jousting match. The tilting lance had to be expertly wielded to ensure a successful hit, and knights spent countless hours training with the weapon to hone their skills.

In addition to its use in jousting battles, the lance was also a common weapon in medieval warfare. The design and construction of lances evolved over time to adapt to the changing tactics and technology of the battlefield. But for knights in the jousting arena, the tilting lance remained a symbol of chivalry and skill, and its mastery was a point of pride for any jouster.

The Technique of Tilting

Using a tilting lance required precision and skill. Jousters had to maintain balance on their galloping horses while aiming their lances and anticipating their opponents’ moves. It was a test of both physical and mental prowess and required a great deal of strength and agility.

The ideal target for a jouster was the center of their opponent’s shield, where the lance could penetrate with the most force. But hitting this mark required exact timing and a steady hand. In some cases, jousters would aim for their opponents’ helmets, attempting to knock them off their horses with a well-placed blow.

The technique of tilting was a dangerous one, and knights took great care to protect themselves with armor and other defensive measures. But despite the risks, jousting remained a beloved and highly respected sport in medieval times.


The tilting lance was the primary jousting weapon used by medieval knights, and it played a central role in the sport’s history and culture. The lance’s design and construction allowed for precision and force, making it a formidable weapon in the jousting arena. Its use required great skill and training, and mastery of the tilting lance was a point of pride for any jouster.

The Role of Armor in Jousting

One of the defining characteristics of jousting was the use of armor, which played a vital role in protecting knights from the deadly impact of their opponents’ lances. Knights donned heavy, full-body armor known as plate armor, which could weigh up to 60 pounds.

The armor was comprised of multiple components, including a helmet, breastplate, gauntlets, leg greaves, and sabatons. Each piece was designed to protect a specific part of the body, while allowing for mobility and flexibility.

The Different Types of Jousting Shields

In addition to armor, knights used jousting shields to further protect themselves from their opponents’ lances. The two main types of jousting shields were the round shield and the kite shield.

Shield Type Description
Round Shield A small, circular shield made of wood or metal, designed to provide protection for the left side of the body.
Kite Shield A larger shield with a distinctive elongated shape resembling a kite. Made of wood or metal, it provided protection for the entire body, including the right side, which was not covered by the armor.

With the kite shield, knights could use their left arm to grip the reins of their horse, while holding the shield in their right hand to protect their body from their opponent’s lance.

During jousting competitions, it was common for knights to decorate their armor and shields with their personal heraldry, displaying their family crest and coat of arms for all to see.

Overall, the combination of armor and shields played a crucial role in the safety and success of jousting competitions, allowing knights to showcase their jousting weapon skills with confidence and bravery.

The Thrill of Jousting Competitions

Medieval jousting was a thrilling and exciting event, and jousting weapons played a central role in making it so. The object of the sport was to strike one’s opponent with a tilting lance while riding a horse, and the crowd cheered on as knights galloped towards each other, lances in hand.

Competitions were often held during the summer months and were attended by nobles and commoners alike. Jousting tournaments were often accompanied by feasts, music, and other forms of entertainment.

The Rules of Jousting

The rules of jousting were relatively simple. Two knights would ride towards each other and try to strike their opponent’s shield or armor with a wooden lance. Points were awarded based on the accuracy and power of the strike.

If a knight was knocked off his horse, he would lose the competition. This was known as a “disgrace,” and the knight would have to surrender his weapons and armor and leave the tournament.

The Role of Jousting Weapons

The choice and design of jousting weapons were critical to a knight’s success in the jousting arena. Lances were the primary weapons used in jousting and were specially designed for the sport. They were longer and heavier than regular lances and could withstand the impact of a clash between two knights.

Shields were also an important part of a knight’s jousting equipment. They were made of wood, metal, or leather and were designed to protect the knight’s body from the opponent’s lance. Some shields were decorated with intricate designs and emblems, serving not only as protective gear but also as a symbol of the knight’s identity and status.

Jousting Techniques and Strategies

Jousting was not just about strength and speed; it also required skill and strategy. Jousters had to be able to aim their lances accurately and use their horses to evade their opponent’s attacks. They also had to be able to react quickly and adjust their techniques based on their opponent’s moves.

Some knights would use unique strategies, such as holding their lances at a different angle or aiming for specific parts of their opponent’s armor. Others would use psychological tactics, such as intimidating their opponent with a fierce gaze or a stern expression.

The Spectacle of Jousting

Jousting tournaments were not just about the competition; they were also about the pageantry and spectacle surrounding the event. Knights would often dress in elaborate costumes and parade around the arena before the competition began. The crowd would cheer and applaud as the knights rode in, displaying their majesty and grandeur.

During the actual competition, the crowd would gasp and cheer as the knights charged towards each other, lances in hand. The sound of the lances hitting the shields or armor would echo throughout the arena, adding to the excitement and drama of the event.

Jousting was not just a sport; it was a form of entertainment that captivated audiences for centuries. It showcased the bravery, skill, and chivalry of knights and provided a thrilling experience for all who attended.

The Code of Chivalry

Jousting competitions were more than just displays of physical prowess; they were also guided by a code of conduct known as chivalry. At the heart of this code were the principles of honor, courage, and fair play. Knights were expected to conduct themselves with grace and nobility, both on and off the battlefield.

The jousting arena was no exception. Jousters were expected to treat their opponents with respect and dignity, even as they sought to unseat them from their horses. It was not uncommon for knights to exchange courteous greetings before and after a match, regardless of the outcome.

Chivalry also demanded that jousters adhere to a strict set of rules during competitions. The use of any weapon other than the designated jousting weapon, typically a tilting lance, was strictly forbidden. Knights were also expected to aim their lances at their opponent’s shield or body, rather than their horse. In the rare cases when a knight was unseated, it was customary for their opponent to dismount and offer assistance in getting up.

The ideals of chivalry extended beyond the jousting arena and into everyday life. Knights were expected to be virtuous, compassionate, and defend the vulnerable. It was believed that chivalry was not just a set of rules, but a way of life that exemplified the highest ideals of humanity.

“He who would be a knight must possess, above all else, a love of justice and respect for the dignity of all human beings.”

The Role of Chivalry in Jousting

The code of chivalry played a crucial role in the sport of jousting. It ensured that knights conducted themselves with honor and fairness, and that the competition remained a display of skill and bravery rather than a brutish display of strength. Chivalry also helped to establish jousting as an esteemed and respected pastime, one that embodied the highest ideals of medieval society.

Although the specifics of chivalry varied from region to region and over time, its central tenets remained largely consistent. As knights strove to uphold these ideals, they helped to shape the culture and values of medieval Europe, leaving a lasting legacy that endures to this day.

Evolution of Jousting Weapons

The medieval era witnessed significant advancements in technology and changes in warfare, which influenced the design and effectiveness of jousting weapons. Over time, the lances and armor used in jousting evolved, as knights sought to gain the upper hand in these exhilarating battles.

The Early Jousting Era

In the early years of jousting, knights used wooden lances with blunt tips to avoid causing serious injury to their opponents. These early jousting lances were relatively short, measuring around 10 feet in length, and were primarily used for tilting at a small target rather than battling an opponent.

As jousting tournaments grew in popularity, knights began to demand better equipment to gain an advantage in the tournament. This led to the development of heavier lances with iron tips, which allowed knights to deliver a more forceful blow and increase their chances of unseating their opponents from their horses.

The Late Jousting Era

By the late medieval period, jousting lances had evolved even further, with longer, heavier weapons becoming the norm. Some lances measured up to 14 feet in length and weighed as much as 20 pounds, making them difficult to handle but devastatingly effective in battle.

In addition to longer lances, knights also began to wear more elaborate armor, including full suits of plate armor that provided excellent protection from enemy strikes. These suits were often designed with intricate etchings and decorations, reflecting the wealth and status of their wearers.

The Decline of Jousting

With the rise of gunpowder and the increasing sophistication of artillery, jousting began to fall out of favor as a popular sport. By the 16th century, it had largely disappeared from mainstream culture, although it continued to be practiced by some noble families as a tradition.

Today, jousting is still enjoyed by enthusiasts around the world, although it has evolved into a more theatrical and historical pursuit than a competitive sport. Modern-day jousting weapons often incorporate elements of both history and fantasy, allowing participants to explore the rich heritage of this noble pastime.

Jousting in Modern Times

The thrill of medieval jousting continues to captivate audiences today, with modern-day adaptations and variations of the sport. While the traditional jousting weapon, the tilting lance, is still used in some competitions, other events incorporate different types of jousting weapons, such as javelins or even foam-tipped weapons for safety reasons.

One popular modern variation of jousting is called “full contact jousting,” which involves armored knights charging at each other on horseback with solid wooden lances. The aim is to strike the opponent’s shield and score points. This type of jousting is often performed at renaissance fairs and other historical festivals.

Another modern-day adaptation of jousting is the “jousting tournament,” where participants compete in a series of jousting matches to determine the ultimate victor. These tournaments often feature knights from around the world, showcasing their skills and techniques in a thrilling display of medieval prowess.

The enduring appeal of jousting as a thrilling display of skill and bravery has also led to its inclusion in popular culture, with jousting scenes featuring in movies, television shows, and video games. This continued interest in jousting serves as a testament to the lasting impact of the sport’s primary weapon, the lance, and the enduring legacy of chivalry in noble pursuits.


From the thundering hooves of galloping horses to the resounding clash of lances on armor, medieval jousting was a thrilling display of martial artistry that captured the hearts of audiences across Europe. At the core of this spectacle were the primary weapons of jousting – the tilting lance and armor – which served not only as tools of combat but also as symbols of chivalric virtue, honor, and prestige.

Throughout the centuries, the design and construction of jousting weapons changed to meet the evolving demands of warfare and technology. Nonetheless, the fundamental principles of chivalry that guided knights during jousting competitions remained steadfast, emphasizing the ideals of courage, generosity, and fairness.

The Enduring Appeal of Jousting

Today, the tradition of jousting continues to captivate audiences around the world, with modern adaptations and variations that showcase the enduring appeal of this ancient martial art. Whether performed at historical reenactments, themed events, or entertainment shows, jousting remains a thrilling display of skill, bravery, and pageantry.

Amidst the excitement and spectacle of jousting, it is important to remember the underlying values that defined this noble pursuit. Through the lens of jousting weapons, we are reminded of the importance of honor, integrity, and perseverance in both the past and the present.

So the next time you witness a jousting competition or marvel at a knight’s suit of armor, take a moment to appreciate the enduring legacy of jousting weapons and the code of chivalry that inspired their use.

Thank you for joining us on this journey through the captivating world of medieval jousting!


What were the primary weapons used in medieval jousting?

The primary weapons used in medieval jousting were lances and armor.

Why were lances and armor important in jousting?

Lances and armor were crucial in jousting as they determined a knight’s performance and success in the tournaments.

What is the mighty lance?

The mighty lance was the primary jousting weapon used by medieval knights.

What was the role of armor in jousting?

Armor played a vital role in jousting, providing protection to knights during battles.

What are the rules and techniques employed in jousting competitions?

Jousting competitions have specific rules and techniques that knights employ to outmaneuver their rivals.

What is the code of chivalry?

The code of chivalry was a set of moral and ethical principles that guided knights in jousting, emphasizing courage, honor, and fair play.

How did jousting weapons evolve over time?

Jousting weapons underwent changes and advancements influenced by technology and changes in warfare throughout the medieval era.

Is jousting still practiced today?

Yes, jousting continues to captivate audiences today, with modern adaptations and variations of the sport.

What are the key takeaways from exploring the primary weapons of medieval jousting?

Lances and armor played a central role in jousting, and the code of chivalry had a lasting impact on the noble pursuit of this sport.