Medieval Feast & Banquets

Medieval Feast

The Lord of the Castle often entertained guests in the Great Hall of a Castle, his guests were treated to lavish feasts.

Medieval Castles Roof Tops

This was a time for royalty to celebrate with their family and friends, important nobles and knights were often invited to attend and this was a time to celebrate, relax and feast on the best meats and drink the best ales and wines.

Feast commonly took place in the Great Hall of a Castle

Feast commonly took place in the Great Hall of a Castle

Feasting was a very important part of medieval life for Kings in medieval times, it was a way for them to lift their own spirits and the people around them. Feasts were commonly a gathering of kings’ or nobles’ family and friends in which an abundant supply of the finest foods and drinks were supplied at a grand table.

Medieval Feast

The Banquet was usually a more formal and pomp affair, commonly used on a very important occasion, such as when other important kings, nobles, knights, or clergy visited.

Medieval Feast

Medieval Christmas Banquet in a castle

Medieval banquets and medieval feasts were very similar celebrations and both involved plenty of eating, drinking, and celebration, however, medieval banquets were generally considered to be more formal, important meetings of large groups of important people that marked very significant events, whereas feasts where more common informal celebrations of lesser events such as birthdays, with the emphasis on eating and drinking and having a good time!

Medieval Castle Great Hall

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

Great medieval banquets commonly had more courses than medieval feasts, feast usually had around 3 courses whereas banquets could have around 7 or 8 which many more dishes served at each course sometimes as many as 20 dishes would be served at one course!

The High Table – Medieval Feast

During feasts and banquets, the most important guests would sit at the high table with the lord and lady. The lord and lady would sit on ornate chairs under a canopy that displayed their coat of arms and emblems.

Medieval Lords Costumes

Medieval Lords Costumes

Next to the lord could be a food tester, these were usually needed to test the lord’s food in case it had been poisoned. The Lord’s dogs would probably be lying around the table waiting for left-over food to be thrown.

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The guests would eat the food with their fingers as there were no knives and forks at that time and medieval food was served on slices of stale bread as plates.

Medieval Feast | Staff

There were lots of staff on hand at a medieval feast or banquet to serve the food and fill the drinking cups with wine or ale, pages, and or squires who were training to become knights under the guidance of the Lord would usually help serve food and drinks.

Squires Training to become Knights

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

Cooks would be working away in the kitchen roasting meats such as chicken, and hog, and plates of vegetables and berries would be prepared. There would usually be soldiers guarding the entrance to the Banqueting Hall.

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Medieval Feast| The Menu and Service

At banquets Heralds would play trumpets to signal the arrival of the next course of food, there could be as many as five courses at a medieval banquet and there were some unusual foods such as roast swan served, whereas a feast was commonly less formal.

Medieval Herald

A Herald was the person responsible for keeping records and detailing medieval emblems and families coat of arms

Medieval Banquet Menu

  • 1st course – potage (a thick soup of meat and vegetables boiled and mashed)
  • 2nd course – stuffed peacock – stuffed with various ingredients and roasted over an open fire
  • 3rd course – roasted wild boar – was usually a full boar that was roasted and served whole
  • 4th course – pears in red wine
  • 5th course – selection of nuts that were available locally

Most meals were washed down with wine or beer, they were served in large 3-handed drinking cups so that the wine or ale could easily be shared and people at the feast would drink from the same cup.

Wild Boar

Wild Boar

Medieval Feast & Banquet Dress Code

The medieval banquet was usually arranged for very special occasions and very important nobles such as Dukes and Barons were commonly invited family, and friends would dress in the best clothing for the occasion, fancy robes hats, and garments would be worn by all.

Medieval Lord Robert Dudley

Medieval Lord Robert Dudley of Leicester in official attire

Medieval people commonly would wear a copper brooch with some design like a dagger to this kind of medieval banquet. The Lord and Lady who had arranged the banquet usually wore the finest clothes and jewelry of all the guests.

The dress code was not as formal for a medieval feast, although it was still considered an honour to attend a feast and people would dress accordingly.

Medieval Feast &  Banquet Entertainment

There was usually quite a lot of entertainment at a medieval banquet and also medieval feasts attendees were entertained by medieval musicians such as minstrels and entertainers like troubadours would entertain guests before the start of the medieval banquet to create a good  atmosphere.

Medieval Castle Entertainment

Medieval Castle Entertainment Entertainer Blowing Flames

Colorful jesters would be responsible for making the Lord and Lady and their guests laugh, minstrels and other entertainers such as jugglers would also help to keep the guests entertained.

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Medieval Feast Fast Facts

  • The guests seated around the Lord and Lady would be positioned in order of their importance
  • Spiced porridge was often served called “frumenty” at a medieval feasts
  • “Frumenty”, was usually served with the first course at a medieval feast
  • Long tables were laden with various meats, stuffed birds, and pastries
  • People ate with their hands at the medieval feast and there was no cutlery
  • There were no plates and people ate off slabs of stale bread called trenchers
  • Feast guests were entertained by musicians, minstrels, and jesters
  • Medieval feasts were held in the Great Hall of the Castle
  • The medieval feast could go on late into the night
  • Important guests and people close to the King would sit at the high table
  • The king had a food tester to test that his food had not been poisoned
  • Medieval people drank from the same large cup that would have several handles
  • People wore the finest clothes to the medieval feast as it was a special occasion

Links to Great Medieval Feast Resources for Further Reading:

A Medieval Feast (Reading Rainbow Books) Paperback – September 25, 1986

A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Official Game of Thrones Companion Cookbook Hardcover – May 29, 2012

Fabulous Feasts: Medieval Cookery and Ceremony Paperback – 1999

The Medieval Cook book! Top 10 Recipes for a Medieval Feast!

Medieval Celebrations: Your Guide to Planning and Hosting Spectacular Feasts, Parties, Weddings, and Renaissance Fairs Paperback – April 13, 2011