The Medieval Lance: A Versatile Weapon for War and Tournaments!

The lance was a primary weapon for knights in medieval warfare and tournaments.

In the hands of a skilled knight, the lance was a deadly weapon that could pierce armor and unhorse an opponent.

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“The development of the lance and the tactics of the heavy cavalry that used it were key factors in the evolution of medieval warfare.”

Dr. John France, Emeritus Professor of History, Swansea University.

Here’s a closer look at the history of the medieval lance, how it was used in battle, and its role in tournaments.

The History of the Medieval Lance

The use of the lance as a weapon dates back to the early Middle Ages, but it wasn’t until the 12th century that it became a standard weapon for knights. At first, lances were made of wood and were often used as a one-time weapon in battle.

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However, as the use of heavy armor became more common, lances had to be designed to withstand the impact of charging knights.

By the 14th century, the lance had evolved into a sophisticated weapon. Lances were made of the finest woods, including ash and oak, and could measure up to 14 feet in length. They were also tipped with a sharp metal point, which could penetrate even the heaviest armor.

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Using the Lance in Battle

In battle, the lance was typically used by knights who charged on horseback. The momentum of the horse and rider added to the force of the blow, making it even more lethal. The knight would lower his lance and aim for the chest or head of his opponent. If successful, the blow could kill or seriously injure the enemy knight.

The White Knight Jousting

“The lance was a crucial weapon of the medieval knight, used both in warfare and in tournaments to display martial prowess.”

“The lance was a crucial weapon of the medieval knight, used both in warfare and in tournaments to display martial prowess.”

However, using the lance was not without risks. A charging knight was vulnerable to attacks from other knights, as well as infantry soldiers armed with pikes or crossbows. The weight of the lance also meant that the knight had limited mobility, making him an easy target if he missed his opponent.

Medieval Crossbow Weapon
Pikemen win a Battle
Battle of Bannockburn

Using the Lance in Tournaments

In tournaments, the use of the lance was slightly different. The lance used in tournaments was designed to break on impact, rather than penetrate armor. This made the lance safer for use in non-lethal competitions, where the goal was to unhorse an opponent rather than kill him.

Tournaments were popular events in medieval Europe, and the joust was one of the most popular events. The jouster would ride down the length of the arena, aiming his lance at his opponent’s shield. If successful, the impact would send his opponent flying off his horse and onto the ground.

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Royal Box Tournament
Royals and nobility watch a tournament from their Royal box
Jousting Knights
Two knights clash in a Jousting contest, they are fully decked in their family colours.


The lance was an important weapon in medieval warfare and tournaments. It was a versatile weapon that could be used for both lethal and non-lethal purposes. With its long reach and piercing power, it was a weapon that struck fear into the hearts of enemy soldiers.

Although the use of the lance declined in the late Middle Ages with the advent of gunpowder weapons, it remains an iconic symbol of medieval knighthood.

5 Great Books about King Arthur Legend

“The Sword in the Stone” by T.H. White
This classic novel tells the story of young Arthur and his journey to become King of England, including his discovery of the legendary sword in the stone.

“Le Morte d’Arthur” by Sir Thomas Malory
This seminal work of Arthurian literature includes the story of the sword in the stone, as well as other tales of King Arthur and his knights.

“The Once and Future King” by T.H. White
This modern retelling of the Arthurian legends includes the story of the sword in the stone, and follows Arthur’s life from his youth to his death.

“King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table” by Roger Lancelyn Green
This children’s book retells the story of King Arthur and his knights, including the tale of the sword in the stone.

“The Legend of King Arthur” by Michael Morpurgo
This young adult novel tells the story of King Arthur and his knights, including the story of how Arthur retrieved the sword from the stone and became king.

knights tournament jousts

Tournaments & Lances Experiences Locations

Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament – Multiple locations in the United States and Canada, including Buena Park, California; Dallas, Texas; Lyndhurst, New Jersey; and Toronto, Ontario.

Royal Armouries Museum – Leeds, United Kingdom.

Festival de la Cité Médiévale – Provins, France.

The Great Tournament of San Giovanni – Florence, Italy.

Warwick Castle – Warwickshire, United Kingdom.

Castlefest – Lisse, Netherlands.

Battle of the Nations – Various locations across Europe.

The Texas Renaissance Festival – Todd Mission, Texas.

The Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology – Caboolture, Australia.

The Tournament of Roses – Pasadena, California.