Indulge in the History of Medieval Banquets – An Epicurean Adventure!

Medieval feasts and banquets were both grand refections held to celebrate significant events or commemorate special occasions. still, there were some differences between the two.

medieval banquet with lots of tables many people

Banquets were generally more formal affairs, frequently hosted by kingliness or patricians. In times of discrepancy, feasts were generally more informal and could be hosted by anyone.

Banquets tended to have a more elaborate menu with further courses and a wider variety of dishes. Feasts, on the other hand, frequently concentrated on one or two specific dishes, similar as a roasted gormandizer or a boar’s head.

medieval banquet with lots of tables many people1

“The medieval banquet was one of the most elaborate and symbolic events of the Middle Ages, conveying messages about social order, status, and power through its carefully orchestrated rituals and sumptuous feasting.”

Richard Barber, British medievalist and author.

Banquets were frequently accompanied by musical or theatrical performances, while feasts were generally more focused on socializing and discussion.

That being said, the terms” feast” and” Banquets” were occasionally used interchangeably and the specific details of each event could vary depending on the time period, position, and host.

A medieval banquet was a large, formal meal that was generally held by nobility or kingliness to commemorate a special occasion, similar as a marriage or a coronation.

focus on roast pig a medieval feastMedieval Fe

Distinguishing Features of a Medieval Banquet

The Great hall would be decorated with tapestries, banners, and other cosmetic features to produce an emotional atmosphere.

The Great hall MEDIEVAL BANQUET would be decorat

Guests were anticipated to dress in their finest vesture, generally conforming of luxurious fabrics and ornate accessories.

English Castle Medieval Banquet
14th century medieval banquet in an English Castle

Multi-course meals

The banquet would feature multiple courses, each conforming of several dishes. Meat and fish dishes were common, as were fruits, vegetables, and sweet desserts.


Banquets frequently featured musical performances, dancing, or other forms of entertainment to keep the guests entertained between courses.

Table settings

The table settings were frequently relatively elaborate, with tableware or gold implements, crystal clear dinnerware, and unfold serving dishes.

French Medieval Banquet
15th century French medieval banquet

Overall, a medieval Banquet was a very grand affair meant to impress and entertain guests, and it needed a great deal of planning and was commonly very expensive.

Who Held Medieval Banquets?

Medieval banquets were mostly held by kings and other nobility, such as lords and wealthy merchants. These individuals had the resources to fund events of this kind, which required extensive preparations, decorations, and entertainment.

Medieval Lord Robert Dudley
Medieval Lord Robert Dudley of Leicester in official attire

Where Were Medieval Banquets Held?

In terms of location, medieval banquets were held in a variety of places, depending on the resources and preferences of the host. Banquets were sometimes held in castles or palaces, which offered grand and imposing settings for the event.

neuschwanstein castle g95429f272 640

However, banquets could also be held in manor houses, which were smaller and more intimate than castles, but still had plenty of space to accommodate a large gathering.

The location of a banquet also had an impact on the type of food and decorations that could be used. For example, a banquet held in a castle might feature outdoor games and hunting as part of the entertainment, while a banquet held in a manor house might be more focused on indoor games and musical performances.

Manor House Medieval

Overall, the location of a medieval banquet depended on the status and preferences of the host, but both castles and manor houses were common choices.

“The medieval banquet was a feast for the senses, a celebration of abundance and indulgence that reflected the values and aspirations of medieval society.”

Caroline Walker Bynum, American medievalist and historian of Christianity.

What Part of a Castle or Manor were Banquets Held?

The part of the building where medieval banquets were held depended on the size of the gathering as well as the status and preferences of the host. In some cases, banquets were held in a large hall or great hall, which was typically the largest room in the castle or manor house.

Medieval Castle Great Hall
Medieval Castle Life, The Medieval Castle Great Hall was where banquets were held in their medieval Castle life

The great hall was often the center of activity in a medieval castle or manor house, and it could serve a variety of functions, including banquets, meetings, and ceremonies. It was often decorated with tapestries, banners, and other lavish furnishings to impress guests.

“Medieval banquets were often grand spectacles, featuring not only food and drink, but also music, dance, theater, and other forms of entertainment designed to impress and delight guests.”

Sarah L. Kaufman, American historian and author.

In addition to the great hall, banquets could also be held in other parts of the building, such as the dining room or banquet hall. These rooms were typically smaller and more intimate than the great hall, and they were often used for smaller gatherings or more private events.

Medieval Banquet in France

Overall, the location of a banquet within a castle or manor house depended on the purpose of the event, and the host’s preference for a particular room or setting. However, the great hall was the most common location for medieval banquets, as it was often the largest and most impressive room in the building.

Layout of The Great Hall

The layout of a great hall in medieval times would vary depending on the size and design of the castle or manor house, as well as the preferences of the host. However, there were some common features that were typical of a great hall during this time period.

“The medieval banquet was a complex social and cultural event, with its own rules of etiquette, dress, and behavior that reflected the values and expectations of the time.”

Melitta Weiss Adamson, Austrian-Canadian medievalist and author.

One of the most important features was the dais or raised platform at one end of the hall. This is where the lord or king and other high-ranking guests would sit. The rest of the space in the hall was used for other guests or members of the household. The seating plan was usually arranged according to social status, with the most important guests seated closest to the dais.

dining room g605258e5f 640

The great hall would often be furnished with long wooden tables and benches or stools. These were set out in rows along the length of the hall to accommodate large groups of people. Servants would deliver food to the guests, who would eat with their hands or use utensils such as spoons or knives.


There would also typically be a large fireplace or hearth at one end of the hall. This not only provided warmth for the guests but was also used for cooking large meals.

Overall, the layout of a great hall during medieval times was designed to accommodate large groups for events such as banquets, meetings, and other gatherings. In these halls, social hierarchy and status were carefully maintained through seating arrangements and other symbolic elements, such as the dais.

“The medieval banquet was a display of wealth, power, and cultural refinement, with elaborate dishes and exotic ingredients meant to impress and awe guests.”

Ken Albala, American food historian and author.

Who Served the Food at a Medieval Banquet?

In medieval times, the serving of food at a banquet was typically the responsibility of servants or attendants. These individuals were often referred to as “servers” or “servitors.” Depending on the social status and size of the banquet, the number of servers could range from just a few to many.

The servers would typically be responsible for bringing the dishes to the table, carving the meat, and serving the food to the guests. They would also refill drinks and clear away empty dishes as the banquet progressed.

Squires Training to become Knights
As part of their training to become medieval knights Squires would serve food

In some cases, the highest-ranking guests might have their own personal servers or attendants, while lower-ranking guests would be served by the general serving staff. The role of the server was an important one, as it required skill and precision to serve the guests without interrupting the flow of the banquet.

Typical Medieval Banquet Courses

A typical meal at a medieval banquet was a lavish affair, with multiple courses served in a specific order. Here is an example of a typical menu and order of the foods at a medieval banquet:
First Course:
A selection of meats, including venison, beef, and pork
Roasted or baked fish
Bread or bread rolls
Second Course:
A variety of soups and stews, such as pea soup or beef stew
Boiled or roasted vegetables, such as carrots, onions, and parsnips
More bread or bread rolls
Third Course:
Roasted or baked game birds, such as quail or pheasant
More roasted or boiled vegetables
A sweet or savory pie, such as a meat pie or a fruit tart
Fourth Course:
Sweet desserts, such as fruit preserves or candied fruits
Spiced wine or other beverages

As you can see, the meal at a medieval banquet was a multi-course affair, with a variety of dishes served in a specific order. The banquet was designed to be a feast for both the eyes and the taste buds, with an emphasis on rich and flavorful foods.

What Did People Drink at a Medieval Banquet?

At a medieval banquet, people drank a variety of beverages, including:

Wine was the most common drink at a medieval banquet, and it was usually served in goblets or large communal vessels. Red wine was popular, but white and rosé wines were also available.

Ale was a type of beer made from malted barley and was a popular drink in medieval times. It was often served in large jugs or barrels.

Mead was a fermented drink made from honey and water. It was popular among the nobility and was often served in ornate vessels.

Cider was made from fermented apples and was a popular drink in areas where apples were plentiful.

Spiced or Flavored Drinks
Spiced wine, also known as mulled wine, was a popular drink in the colder months. Other flavored drinks included hippocras, which was made from red wine, sugar, and spices, and claret, which was a red wine flavored with honey, spices, and herbs.

It’s worth noting that water was not a common drink at medieval banquets, as it was often considered unsafe to drink due to the lack of sanitation practices. Instead, people drank alcoholic beverages, which were believed to be safer due to the fermentation process killing off harmful bacteria.

How Did People Eat at a Medieval Banquet

At a medieval banquet, people used a variety of utensils and dinnerware to eat and drink. Here are some examples:

Plates and Bowls
Plates and bowls were made of wood, ceramic, or metal and were used for serving and eating food.

Knives were used to cut meat and other foods, and they were often made of iron or steel.

Spoons were made of wood, bone, or metal and were used for eating soup, porridge, and other liquid foods.

Although forks were not commonly used until the Renaissance, some high-ranking individuals at a medieval banquet may have used a two-pronged fork to eat certain foods.

Drinking Vessels
Drinking vessels included goblets, tankards, and flagons, which were made of ceramic, glass, or metal.

Napkins were used to wipe the hands and mouth during the meal, and they were often made of linen or other fine fabrics.

It’s worth noting that at a medieval banquet, people did not use individual utensils and dinnerware as we do today. Instead, food was often served on large platters and shared among the guests, who used their hands or utensils to take portions from the platters.

Order of Foods Served at a Banquet

Foods were usually served in a particular order, starting with lighter dishes such as fruits, vegetables, and eggs, followed by heavier dishes such as meats and fish.

A Typical List of Courses Served at a Medieval Banquet Would Have Been:

A typical list of courses served at a medieval banquet would have included several courses, each with multiple dishes. The exact menu would have varied depending on the occasion and the social status of the guests, but here is an example of a typical list of courses:

First Course:
A selection of cold meats, such as ham or roast beef; fish, such as salmon or trout; and cheese, served with bread or a savory pastry.

Second Course:
A selection of hot soups, stews, and broths, such as beef and barley soup or chicken broth. This course might also include vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips, or turnips, cooked in various ways, such as boiled or roasted.
Third Course:

A selection of roasted or baked meats, such as beef, venison, or boar, accompanied by more vegetables and possibly a fruit tart or a savory pastry.
Fourth Course:

A selection of sweet desserts, such as custards, tarts, or fruit pies, along with candied fruits, nuts, and spiced wine.

It’s worth noting that a medieval banquet could have included many more courses than this, with additional dishes featuring delicacies such as game birds, eels, or exotic spices. The order and composition of the courses would have been carefully planned to create a balanced and impressive feast for the guests.

Medieval Banquet Timeline

Medieval banquets began to appear in the High Middle Ages (11th-13th centuries). Some of the most famous banquets from this period include the Feast of the Pheasant in 1454, the Field of Cloth of Gold in 1520, and the lavish banquets held by the courts of the Plantagenet kings of England.

Why Was the Feast of Pheasants in 1454 Famous?

The Feast of Pheasants was a famous banquet held in Lille, France, in 1454. The feast was organized by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, to promote a crusade against the Ottoman Empire and to celebrate the wedding of his son, the future Duke Charles the Bold.

The banquet was attended by many prominent figures of the day, including nobles, knights, and ambassadors from various European countries. The centerpiece of the feast was a roasted peacock that had been stuffed with other birds, such as pheasants and herons, which were then released during the meal to symbolize the call to arms for the crusade.

The banquet was also notable for its elaborate decorations and entertainment. The banquet hall was decorated with tapestries, banners, and paintings, and musicians and jesters provided entertainment throughout the meal.

Despite its grandeur, the Feast of Pheasants did not lead to a successful crusade against the Ottoman Empire. However, it did serve as a display of the wealth, power, and cultural refinement of the Burgundian court, and it remains a famous example of medieval feasting and spectacle.

Why Was The Field of Cloth of Gold in 1520?

The Field of Cloth of Gold in 1520 was a summit held between King Henry VIII of England and King Francis I of France in a meadow near the English-French border. The two kings and their entourages camped in the meadow for two weeks, during which time lavish banquets and tournaments were held, attended by both kings and their courtiers.

The Field of Cloth of Gold was renowned for its extravagance and spectacle, and was seen as a sign of peace and alliance between the two countries.

Here are Five Good Books about Medieval Banquets:

“Food and Feast in Medieval England” by P.W. Hammond
This book explores the food and drink culture of medieval England, including banquets and feasts.

“The Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italy” by Odile Redon, Françoise Sabban, and Silvano Serventi
This book provides a collection of recipes and information about medieval cooking and banquets.

“The Medieval Banquet: Images of Eating and Feasting” by Hans Peter Ernst
This book is an illustrated study of the history and culture of medieval banquets.

“Feast: A History of Grand Eating” by Roy Strong
This book covers the history of feasting and banquets, from ancient times to the present day.

“Banquetting Stuffe: The Fare and Social Background of the Tudor and Stuart Banquet” by C. Anne Wilson
This book focuses on the Tudor and Stuart period in England and provides a detailed look at the food, drink, and social customs of the time, including banquets.

List of Places Where You Can Experience an Authentic Medieval Banquet

Bunratty Castle in Ireland
The Bunratty Castle hosts nightly medieval banquets featuring traditional food and drink, along with live music and entertainment.

Medieval Times in the United States
Medieval Times is a dinner theater chain that provides medieval-themed entertainment and food, including a four-course meal served in a castle-like atmosphere.

Coombe Abbey in England
Coombe Abbey hosts medieval banquets in its historic hall, featuring a five-course meal and live entertainment.

Schloss Rheydt in Germany
Schloss Rheydt offers medieval banquets featuring traditional food, drinks, and entertainment in its historic castle.

Les Médiévales de Provins in France
Les Médiévales de Provins is an annual medieval festival that includes banquets, featuring traditional French cuisine and entertainment.

Please note that availability and offerings may vary depending on the location and time of year, and it’s always a good idea to check with the venue in advance.