Posted by: Anique | May 9, 2011

Joan of Arc and Knights in Shining Armour

You probably thought medieval festivals and jousting tournaments were a thing of the past; that they only occurred in the times of princesses and castles. You probably never thought that they existed in the twenty-first century…you would be wrong.

We visited one on the 1st of May, on Ile Charlemagne in Orleans. The reason for this festival was the Fêtes de Jeanne D’Arc (Joan of Arc festival) celebrating the 582ndanniversary of the day that the famous French heroine seized Orleans back from the English. They

Joan of Arc

are still celebrating the day after over half a millennium. That is some serious gratitude!

We were on our way through the downtown heading to the Ile Charlemagne, when we were moved to the side of the road by some police. Behind the police there was a Scottish pipes and drums band and then a seventeen year old girl on horseback who played the part of Joan of Arc. She was wearing armour and carried a flag; she looked like a real warrior. Behind her were a couple hundred scouts and girl guides (or the French equivalent, anyways). There were boys and girls and they ranged from about 8-14 years old. Once the parade passed us, we walked to the nearest bridge and crossed. We followed the signs for “Fête Médiéval” (medieval festival) and they brought us through a Sunday market. We bought some tortilla sandwiches, some baklava and some edible euro bills! The euro bills were tasteless but we ate them just for the sake of eating money.

About ten minutes later we arrived at the Festival and stopped dead in our tracks, this wasn’t just a few vendors and show ring; this was a full blown medieval camp. Most of the space, that was free of trees, was taken up with colourful tents. Some were vendors but most were just people hanging out for the week or weekend.  Nearly everyone was wearing medieval style clothing complete with shoes and hats. Their camps were very realistic too, they had straw bales for mattresses; open fires for cooking; real canvas tents; pewter, wood or stone cooking and eating utensils and big wooden tables to eat at. It was still early and there weren’t many tourists around, so if you looked in the right direction it looked completely real.

We wandered to the end of the island and sat down in the shade to have lunch. We were just finishing lunch when everyone started walking toward the road; we followed and found that Joan of Arc was here. This time, however, she was riding in a wagon pulled by a team of horses and she was followed by people dressed in medieval style, knights in shining armour and peasants, fair maidens and peasant’s wives, creepy creatures and funny buskers, and many others too.

The first show was set to happen at 12:15. It was a play with a sorceress, a knight and his horse. We got front row spots, right against the fence. The fight between the witch and the knight was kind of cool but the horse was the best part. It was amazingly well trained.It would rear, back up, roll on the ground, run away and come back all around some pretty creepy creatures and a roaring crowd. After the witch was “killed” a sort of circus troop came out. There were three people on stilts and three people who danced with fire. They were really flexible and one girl had two flaming whips. We stayed in our spot and watched the next performance.

Knight vs Sorceress

This one was the battle of Ripailles. Most of the men who were staying in the camp put on their chain mail picked up their swords and shields and went out to stage a war. It was the English versus the French and, surprisingly, the English won; the crowd didn’t like that too much. It was a real battle and it wasn’t staged to the last detail. There were real archers with pointless arrows, a big slingshot that fired water balloons and cannons that fired blanks.

The Battle

After that we checked out the vendors but didn’t buy anything because everything was expensive and we don’t have much space in our bags. On our back to the ring we stopped to watch two groups of troubadours. The first were silly jugglers. They were wearing medieval style leather clothing and had wooden juggling pins. They did a sort of comedy act about who the leader was and did some cool stunts.

Very cool Troubadours

The second was a group of buskers who were dressed up in creepy costumes. There was a guy who had his face painted blue and he jumped up and down on his 2 foot long stilts (see video here). The other people in his troupe did gymnastics and dances. One guy was carrying the speakers on his back!

We also saw a guy do a bunch of cool card tricks! He had a little booth with medieval board games, which Owen and I tried. He did absolutely amazing tricks that I just couldn’t figure out!

At 3:45 we went back to the ring for the show called “Excalibur and the Black Knight”. This one was a skill tournament between 6 knights on horseback. They all had different colours on their clothes and gear. First they stuck a lance through a small hoop that hung above the track. Then they knocked over two small shields that were sitting on the ground in a row. When they were done that, they used a sword to chop an apple off a pole that one of the helpers was holding. Then they hit a metal soldier’s shield.  The metal soldier was like a flat metal scarecrow that spun around a point. They did all this on horseback at a gallop. “King Arthur” won that section despite the best efforts of the “Black Knight”. The “Black Knight’s” efforts consisted of cheating and hurting people. After “Arthur’s” victory lap, they had a jousting tournament. Before they started the helpers set the division in the middle on fire (on purpose) and about half way through the flags caught on fire, too. They really raced hard and actually hit each other. Some of the knight jousting sticks were broken. Three guys fell of their horses, when I say fell I mean flew. The third guy got dragged for about 100 meters by the reins of his horse. “Arthur” won this part too!

Broken Lances

So, medieval festivals and jousting tournaments aren’t a thing on the past and they are still as exciting as ever!

Maiden Anique

For Dad’s pictures CLICK HERE


  1. Wow! Perth is going to seem pretty mundane after all you have seen this year…and you’re not done yet. That was a really well written piece, Anique. Maybe you should take over as Blogger-in-Chief and just let your Dad take the pictures.

    • He he he I will think about it!

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