Lance Weapon

The lance was a special weapon that is always associated with the medieval knight, especially during tournaments. The lance was used by medieval cavalry during medieval times, it was a popular weapon with medieval knights who used the lance weapon in battles and in friendly jousting competitions in medieval tournaments.

The medieval lance weapons name came from the French word “Lancea” and the lance also has strong historical links with Celtic medieval history!

The White Knight Jousting

Medieval Lance

What were medieval lances made from?

Early medieval lance weapons were similar to Spears and had long wooden shafts and a metalhead, however, the lances used in popular medieval tournaments or tourneys were made of hollow wood and had blunted heads such as the Coronal head which was very popular, safety was a concern for medieval knights in jousting contests and safety devices were added to lances such as the coronal to protect medieval knights from injury.

Medieval lances are also known as Lancing sticks – in some jousting contests even canes were used as lances.

Knights parade with Lances

knights parade before a tournament with lances raised

Disadvantages of earlier lance medieval weapons

Early medieval lances were not that useful against military infantry contrary to popular belief, around the 11th century most medieval cavalry would hold their lances underneath their arms for the better effect this was called the crouched position. This was a popular way to use the lance in battle and it was called the Syrian attack as it was used widely in the middle east.

Medieval Jousting Games

Medieval Jousting games were very popular with medieval people

Later medieval lance weapons

As the medieval period progressed the design of the medieval lance changed, earlier medieval lances were similar to Spears and the wooden shaft was usually fairly thin as a spear, later medieval lances were much thicker and heavier than the early medieval lances and were much better weapons.

These medieval lances also had a shaped grip, so that they could be held more easily at the center of the weapon. This new specialized late medieval lance design also offered protection to the hand of the knight and the lancehead was designed so that it did not go straight through or too deeply into the enemy’s body.

knights Jousting Tournament

Medieval lances and the knight

medieval lances along with the sword were the favorite weapons of the medieval knight, as a medieval knights armor developed to full plate lance rest were built into the design of his body armor, usually on the breastplate so that the medieval knight had easier control over the lance weapon, and not as much effort was used up when using the lance weapon.

Medieval Tournament Joust

Jousting knights collide in a joust at a medieval tournament

Medieval knights would charge with the lance held across the horse with their lancehead sticking out to the left as they charged and they would meet at the center of the jousting track with an almighty clash of jousting sticks against shields or armor, quite often the Lance stick would snap on impact as they were designed to do this for tournaments.

Jousting Knights

Two knights clash in a Jousting contest

The decline of the medieval lance as a weapon

As medieval weaponry continued to improve so did medieval armor such as full plate armor which significantly reduced the effectiveness of medieval lances. Later in the medieval period gunpowder started to be introduced and this led to a further decline in the use of medieval lances in warfare. However medieval lances continued to be used in medieval jousting competitions in tournaments and are used in medieval jousting sporting competitions right up until the present day.

Medieval Lance facts:

  • A medieval lance was a cavalry weapon
  • Medieval lances were made out of wood with a metalhead
  • The name Lance is coming from the word “Lancea” which was French Latin
  • Early medieval lances basically Spears
  • Later medieval lances were adapted to be more specialized with thicker shafts
  • Medieval lances were commonly held underarm in what was called a crouched position
  • The Bayeux tapestry shows different uses of lances used in an overarm or underarm position
  • Wing attachments to later medieval lances stopped lances from penetrating an enemies body too deeply
  • A lance rest was built into medieval knights’ armour in later times to make lances easier to use and control
  • Lances were held across the horse during an attack
  • Lighter lances similar to spears were still used inĀ  later medieval times
  • Plate armor reduced the effectiveness of the medieval lance
  • Tournament lances were blunted with a head called a coronal
  • The lance was the main weapon in knights jousting competitions in medieval tournaments