The World Championships in Medieval Combat

Steps from a 15th century Spanish castle, combatants took to arms

Fighters from Poland (in red) and France (in blue) fight against each other in a "5 vs 5" competition during the Medieval Combat World Championship in Belmonte, Spain, May 1, 2014. Medieval combat is a full contact sport that revives the foot based tournament fighting of medieval Europe. Countries fight in refereed matches where the objective is to get the opposing team to the floor. There are also duels with polearms, swords and shields where the number of hits landed are scored. The fighters, both male and female, wear heavy armours and weapons, mostly replicas of authentic pieces, and fight following the knights code of conduct. SUSANA VERA/Reuters/Corbis
A female German fighter rests after competing in the first World International Medieval Combat Championship. VICTOR LERENA/epa/Corbis
A female fighter from the United States (R) hits her New Zealand opponent with a polearm during a duel. SUSANA VERA/Reuters/Corbis
Fighters from the United States (R) and Denmark compete in a polearm duel. SUSANA VERA/Reuters/Corbis
An armour hangs from a tent during the Medieval Combat World Championship. SUSANA VERA/Reuters/Corbis
A fighter from Spain (in red) is taken down by his opponent from Italy during a "5 vs 5" competition. SUSANA VERA/Reuters/Corbis
Members of the French team rest at their camp after competing. SUSANA VERA/Reuters/Corbis
Female fighters from New Zealand (L) and Luxembourg compete in a polearm duel. SUSANA VERA/Reuters/Corbis
A blacksmith repairs a weapon as women sew and chat during the Medieval Combat World Championship in Belmonte, Spain, May 1, 2014. SUSANA VERA/Reuters/Corbis

In the Late Middle Ages King René of Anjou put out the Traicte de la Forme de Devis d'un Tournoi, a guide book on how one ought to throw a combative medieval tournament. It was inspired, most likely, by a mêlée held 1393, between 50 men representing the lord of Gruuthuse and 50 men representing the lord of Ghistelles. By the time the book gained popularity, in the late 1400s, these sorts of contests didn't happen much anymore.

Still, one translator says, King René gave more than enough details for the would-be tournament holder to follow:

The tournament described by René is a melee fought by two sides; individual jousts are only briefly mentioned as following the tournament itself.... the text and illustrations together present a vivid spectacle, and provide nearly all the information one might need to hold a tournament like the one described. René carefully describes the heraldic ceremonial, the layout of the lists, the costumes of heralds and judges, the weapons and armor, the arrangements for lodgings for the tourneyers, and the prizes.

Earlier in the month, just steps from the 15th century Belmonte Castle in Belmonte, Spain, combatants decked out in real armor and medieval weapons partook in a tournament inspired by René's rules. Known as the Medieval Combat World Championships, men and women from 19 countries, including the U.S., came together to test their mettle on the battlefield.

The champinships ran from May 1 to 4. This year's competition may be over, but there's another medieval-style battle happening in June. Or, the International Medieval Combat Federation has made it easy to watch armor-clad warriors beat each other with blunted swords: just take a wander over to their YouTube page to see it all.

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