05 July, 2012

A Medieval Festival in a Medieval Town

Every year since 1997, Horb am Neckar has hosted a Medieval Festival in celebration of the signing of the Contract of Horb on June 10th, 1498. At the time that the contract was signed, Maximilian was King of W├╝rttemberg. Hence the name of the festival: Maximilian Ritterspiele. For more details, see the festival website.

The festival consisted of a medieval-style market with artisans selling their handiwork: blacksmiths, dyers, weavers, potters, shoemakers, armorers, tailors, you name it! Throughout the market there were also musical groups playing renaissance music on period instruments. A section of the city was set up as a medieval camp with meat cooking on open fires and knights lounging under canvas tents.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the festival that I saw was the knights' tournament. This event reminded me of my visit to "Medieval Times" near Chicago. The tournament was scripted, but the horses and lances were real. I put together a little video of the event including some subtitles of the dialog.

I was only slightly disappointed by the flag troupe which performed before the knights came on. They were doing some really cool tricks with the flags, but after watching so much Drum and Bugle Corps, well, it just doesn't compare. They could have done a lot better with just a snare and bass drum laying down a beat or even just a fife.

During the tournament, the knights competed in various tasks in order to win the golden sword which had been sponsored by the townsfolk. These tasks included grabbing goblets off a fence from a moving horse, hooking rings on a lance, spearing a mock-pig, shooting a mock-bear with an arrow and of course, jousting. The jousting was done with highly modified lances that shattered harmlessly on impact, but the riders still threw themselves convincingly mid-gallop from their saddles.

It was a summer day well spent at the Horber Ritterspiele. I would highly recommend any in the area next summer to stop by.

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