Rules of medieval jousting

Written by rena sherwood
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Rules of medieval jousting
(Image from Wikimedia Commons.)

Jousting was one of the most spectacular war games for knights of the Middle Ages. It also was one of the few legal spectator sports of the time. The Middle Ages Web site (see Resources) postulates that jousting started in the tenth century because Roman gladiator-type events had been banned in Europe around 400 A.D. The rules are incredibly simple.

The Objective

The main rules of jousting were for two contestants on horseback armed with lances to charge each other, trying to knock each other off the horse. If one fell off, the other knight dismounted to continue combat by sword until one surrendered.


Each tournament had a point system, which varied from tournament to tournament. The most points were scored when you could either hit the point of your lance against the chest of the opposing knight or in the centre of the shield.


Each tournament could have slightly different requirements for weapons used and any particular styles of combat the knights needed to apply. Although tournaments may allow for three passes of the horses, some only allowed one.

Length of Jousts

Some jousts held a series of elimination pairs leading to one showdown, while other jousting tournaments where all of the knights had to battle the king or the king's champion were held.


A knight was disqualified if he killed a horse or if his lance touched any other part of the opposing knight's body except the centre of the chest.

Fun Fact

We know the rules for medieval jousting from a manuscript written in 1066 by Geoffroi de Purelli, who died while jousting.

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