Canon fire and pounding hooves

Looking back on this year's twelve day event at the Museum zu Allerheiligen (the All Saints Abbeys Museum) in Schaffhouse, Switzerland. The Company of St. George was invited to participate in „The Great Schaffhausen Knights’ Festival“, which took place from July 10 to 20 2014.

Our artillery company was lodged in the abbey's cloister, where we found both dry and cool spots – which were to become very useful. We encountered some rather drastic weather changes during our stay of twelve nights and days, and it was quite reassuring to have some solid stone walls and a roof over our sleeping area.


Needle maker (Photo by Andreas Petitjean)

The company's orders were: to maintain the safety of the abbey and the many nobles and knights during this great tournament. We installed ourselves comfortably and lived our everyday camp life, with a perfectly running kitchen, lots of artisans, and even people playing different games in their spare time. Needless to say, our gunners also trained thoroughly, in order to maintain their cannon routines.

All Saints' Abbey turned out to have some very nice corners ready for us – both inside and outside of its buildings. We will certainly remember the garden, with its herbs and beautiful flowers, surrounded by the yellow stone walls of the Abbey, its chapel and the cathedral.
Personally, I like to think back and remember one morning at the end of my night watch, when the first rays of sunlight fell on the raw cathedral wall, which started to radiate in an ocher glow that spread a kind of Tuscan atmosphere all over our camp. A great impression, that won't be forgotten again.


Garden and kitchen (Photo by Eliane Caramanna)

The combination of our camp life and military routines with a real tournament nearby was very exciting. With its joust with massive, one piece pine wood lances, and a very realistic melee, which demanded maximum focus and physical ability of every horse and knight, this tournament had set its standard very high. The participants did everything they could, to live up to it – despite of the various weather conditions. There was shown some excellent horsemanship and very well trained horses. What 10 or 15 years ago still was to be considered stunt shows on horses, has now been turned into a sports event, where winners and losers are no longer predictable – or at least not more, than in a modern soccer match, car race or boxing fight. The mental and physical shape of each horse and horse rider, as well as circumstances such as the quality of their equipment or ground and weather conditions had become critical factors for the end result of each tournament. As often, when people step onto new ground, challenges where popping up and solutions had to be found.

As an example, here is a short story about the start of the melee: for the melee, the tournament field was divided by a pair of ropes, building a barrier between the two teams of knights, who were supposed to attack each other. The start signal for the melee originally supposed to be a fanfare – giving the signal to us „Grieswärtel“ (a kind of an assistant judge, provided by the company), to run across the field whilst collecting the two ropes. The idea was, that we would reach the other side of the field, before the two teams of knights could clash. In the beginning, we managed to do so, just fine. After a few times, it became less and less possible for us, to reach the safe side of the field before the riders reached us. At one time I saw out of the corner of the eye, that the horses at the lower side of the field, closer to the musicians, already leapt into the air, even before the fanfare had sounded. Of course, some of the horses, being very apprehensive animals, which are used to observe repetitive procedures, soon started to understand, what was the start signal (the fanfare), and what came before that (lifting the trumpets, inhaling). Now, most of the horses being stallions, every horse wanted to be the first and fastest. So they started taking off, before we humans even had a chance to hear the fanfare. There was no way that we would cross that field collecting the ropes in proper time. We actually failed one time and the horses (from both sides galloping) had to be stopped at the very last moment by the head judge. In the end, the procedure was changed for safety reasons. It's just an example of something, that can occur, and which has do be dealt with, because both humans and horses are intelligent creatures and their behavior cannot always be predicted.


Knight (Photo by Andreas Petitjean)

The Company contributed to the frame actions of the tournament, by assuring the safety of the herald and the nobility plus lending some extra helping hands, where they were needed. Twice a day, while maintaining our camp life, we sent between 15 and 20 people in a little parade of soldiers and camp followers from the cloister to the tournament field, thus also providing a connection between the two areas. On the tournament field, our people became part of the historical audience. Female company members, beautifully dressed as noble ladies, reinforced the knights' own entourage at each tournament, patiently enduring the heat of those high summer days in their thick robes.

It was a fantastic time and another great experience with the Company of St. George. Looking back on this event, I can only admire the courage and the enthusiasm of Mr. Peter Jezler and his team at the Museum zu Allerheiligen. To bring such an extraordinary and ambitious project to this lovely city of Schaffhouse, Switzerland, is an outstanding achievement. On behalf of the company, my sincerest thanks for the opportunity to take part and contribute to this big and successful project!

By Roger Kolb, Veteran Company member