Who is stronger, a medieval or a modern knight? Which armour is more solid – the original or the one made by the reenactors? What was a medieval tournament like then and what is it now? Let’s try to find out together with the St. George’s Tournament organiser, a knight who took part in many international tourneys, Dmitry Savchenko.
— – What’s the difference between physical training for modern and medieval knights? Who is stronger and why (if we can compare them at all)?
— Who is stronger: a hedgehog or a rabbit? It’s a very complicated thing, to make a hedgehog fight with a rabbit to find out who is stronger. And it’s literally impossible to compare modern jousters with their medieval counterparts. They lived then, we live now.
Probably a modern knight has more tournaments in his career. However even the grandest ones, like St. George’s Tournament are incomparable with those held in the Middle Ages, when hundreds of fighters could come and participate.
As for the armour, we make it from a modern shaped steel and it seem to be more solid. Physically we are also rather healthier: we eat better. Although if with the medicine of the epoch one lived till 20, he was such a weather-beaten guy who was afraid of nothing.
Maybe if a modern knight met with a famous fighter Jacques de Lalaing, I would bet on the latter. This choice doesn’t have a foundation though.
They were different people. They had a different attitude to risk, life or death. For us it’s an entertainment, for them it was their life. It’s a different level of risk, and that’s important. They were ready to kill. We are not.
We are unable to reenact the mind of a medieval man. It is impossible. That’s why I always say: we’re not playing as if we were knights. To be a medieval knight nowadays is inconceivable.
— What it meant to be a knight in the 15th century?
– A knight was a title one had to deserve. Even kings and dukes were not born knights, but got this title for their service, even if nominal.
Thus the question what was it like to be a knight in 15th century is easy on the one hand, because it meant to serve. On the other hand, one can serve in different ways. A lot depended on a person, his qualities and origin. Some are better known to us as the military, some – as noble men, others as politicians. In this case there’s no single answer.
– A modern man doesn’t have to serve to become a knight. But how can he take part in the St. George’s Tournament? How much to train?
– It’s always better to train more, than to train less.
Apart from, let’s say, physical training a would-be participant is to have good reenactment preparation. There has to be right armour, a civilian dress, a saddle… On the whole, lots of expensive and absolutely useless in the ordinary life things and skills.
Thus there are very few people who can take part in the St. George’s Tournament.
— And how did the knights get to the 15th century tournaments, who had the right to compete?
— Some knights were invited by the organisers, the other were members of the tournament teams of the noblemen. There were no common requirements. For example, in the end of the 15th century — beginning of the 16th in Augsburg there was a full-fledged tournament with jousting, and even not noble people were able to participate.
However the spectacular tournaments organised by the elite had among the participants only the knights of the same rank. For example, I can hardly imagine a situation from the film ‘A Knight’s Tale’ with Heath Ledger happening in the 15th century. There his character presents a false patent of nobility to take part in the tournament. In the real Middle Ages the career of such an adventurer would be short, and his destiny rather unenviable.
— How many years have you been training? Did it become easier or more difficult for you? Is it still interesting to joust, the way it was during your first tournaments?
— I got up on the horse in 2005, my first serious tournament (trainings and performances don’t count) was in 2006. Whether it became easier… Well, on the one hand, I feel more confident, with the experience and everything. On the other… 13 years ago I felt better physically.
As for the interest, there is no such flame like before, when it doesn’t matter where, how and with whom, just to fight. Now I agree to take part not in each tournament: no time for everything, and not many tournaments can surprise me.
Although if there was no interest, I wouldn’t do it. It’s just the interest became selective.I like a lot the tournaments overseas. There are new adversaries, and the trip itself, and in general it’s pleasant to joust at a tournament you don’t have to organise! Nothing to worry about, and you can concentrate on performing, without thinking of some organisational matters.
By the by, speaking about the organisation. At some point I understood that it’s more interesting to organise cute tournaments than to take part in them. It’s very difficult to refuse participation in the St. George’s though, it’s objectively a cool tournament.
— Indeed, you can compare. By the way, you mentioned a modern knight has more tournaments in his career than his medieval counterpart. Can you describe your experience, what tournaments did you partake in?
— The geography is already impressive, I can well boast: the US, Great Britain, France, Denmark, Australia, the Netherlands. To say nothing of Ukraine and Belarus. And also the biggest tournaments in Russia.
The most important one is certainly my first international tournament at the festival Times and Epochs in 2013. Then the ambulance came for me right after the first tilt… And three months later I already won a tournament in Kiev.
In 2014 I went to the US, to the Tournament of the Phoenix. Met lots of interesting people there, later it helped me in my career. In 2016, in Denmark, took part in the championship with 22 horsemen from all over the planet.
In 2017 won the Tournament of the Order of St. Michael in France, and in 2018 visited the St. Ives Tournament in Australia, thus I have taken part in all the three grandest international historical solid tournaments. By the way, the Australian one is the toughest tournament I have ever done.
— Nowadays the organisation of a tournament is a very expensive and complicated work. Only rare enthusiasts do it. How expensive and complicated it was in the 15th century?
— Expensive and complicated. We have many descriptions of the pompous medieval tournaments made by the eyewitnesses.
For example, description of the ‘Golden Tree’, one of the most spectacular tournaments of the time. John Paston, Tommaso Portinari, Giacomo Panigarola, Georges Chastelain, Jean de Wavrin, Jean d’Henin, Olivier de la March and many other wrote about it.
Some descriptions are full of details of costumes, decorations, feasts and armours. Even then it was a tremendous budget. We can only dream of it!