by: HL Seannach Mac Lochlainn
“You’ve never been to St. Georges Tourney?”
“What is it?”
“Aaah,” I sigh. “To me, it is the dream made real, as real as mere mortals can produce.” I reply.
“Tell me more.”
So I shall.
Picture this, then: a sweet spring day with gentle breezes blowing clouds across the Trimarian blue sky. You look out at the brightly colored pavilions ringing the lyst field, their banners and pennants fluttering in the wind, and try to pick your favorite from among them – for one will win a prize for Best Heraldic Display. The competition must be in earnest, for there are more beautiful pavilions than you’ve seen since war!
The Fighters’ highly polished armor gleams in the sun as they prepare for the tourney, assembling painted shields and donning new heraldic surcotes. Your eye is caught by the fluttering of silken veils as beautiful Ladies in their fine gowns visit among the pavilions, where the Fighters bow to kiss the hand of the Ladies who offer wishes of good fortune. There is much flirting and coy laughter between the Ladies and the Fighters, for courtly love is the ideal of this day.
You see that there is a table aside the lyst field where amazing handmade crested helms with their feathers, horns, animals and flowers of all sizes and styles wait to be judged by the Ladies. Each Lady has in her possession a red rose that she will pin to the helm of her choice – and the Fighter with the most roses will win one of the coveted prizes assembled in the hall.
You watch as the Fighters and Consorts process the lyst field in their finest regalia, the Fighters being led by their Ladies on chains or cords looking as if they have stepped from the pages of history. In 13th century fashion these same Ladies act as judges and present the Prizes. As the tourney begins you are surprised to see that the men who fight in the tourney do not fight as usual with killing blows to the head and the taking of arms and legs; rather they strive to knock the crest off the other Fighter’s helm with a greater degree of grace and delicacy than usual. Acts of Chivalry abound all around you both on the field and off, and in general it is a celebration of the best of the Middle Ages.
Between bouts you watch as each Lady and her Fighter make their way to all of the pavilions encircling the tourney field, extending greetings and giving a small gift to honor the other Ladies. In this way the Fighter and his Consort both practice the Virtues of Chivalry, Honour and Largesse. The gifts are small, but in-period and in good taste: velvet pouches of sea salt or other spices of the realm, small bottles of flavored honey, fresh flowers with ribbons, hand-dipped candles, scented oils in pretty vials, hand-made items and gifts from history all of which contribute to the illusion that you have travelled back in time to a more noble era.
You hear cheering and laughter by the crowd around you, and see that a Fighter was successful in knocking his opponents crest off. The Ladies bestow compliments and favors of their own to the Fighters who please their eye, and the merriment continues until one Fighter remains triumphant, and he will be awarded the prize for Champion of the Tourney.
The crested helm tourney is finished, but this day is far from over. You find that you are served a bountiful and tasty lunch before you hurry to attend the Bocce Tournament that you signed up for (there are only 16 players allowed). It seems so simple: you are given a colored ball to toss toward a target ball, and the one who gets closest wins points – unless someone else knocks your ball away. It’s easy to see why this game became such an obsession in the Middle Ages that it was prohibited! The laughter continues as this seemingly easy but surprisingly challenging game tests your skill and stamina far into the day until one of the teams emerges victorious and takes the coveted St. Giles Cup.
As the afternoon wears down you attend court beside the beautiful lake. There many awards and prizes are given out in celebration of the virtues shown by all today, followed by a bountiful feast. Courtly love and dancing continue on into the night, completing a day that you will fondly remember forever.