Sea Jousting

On the banks of the Bastide Saint-Louis lies the Canal du Midi. An incredible engineering feat that connected the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean across the south of France, eliminating the long and dangerous sail around Spain. The construction of the 240 km canal took twelve years and required the building of 64 locks, 55 aqueducts, 7 canal bridges, and 126 canal-crossing bridges. DSC04533.JPG


The day we were there they were having the sea jousting championship of Carcassonne. Having seen this exhibition once before in Palavos we were excited to show it to Zoe again. As described in a website on sea jousting the explanation is as follows. Two substantial wooden boats (barques lourdes) are rowed towards each other by eight or ten oarsmen. They pass each other on the left, much like horses in conventional land jousts. One jouster on each boat stands on a special raised platform (la tintaine) at the stern of the boat about three metres (10 feet) above the surface of the water. In addition to the jouster and the rowers, the crew consists of a helmsman (timonier patron) and two musicians, one playing a kind of drum (tambour) and the other a kind of oboe (hautbois). Also on board, under the tintaine, are jousters who will take part in the next joust. The boats themselves are painted red and blue and fly red and blue chequered flags respectively. To add to the carnival atmosphere the crews sing ancient jousting songs, accompanied by their onboard bands as the boats speed towards each other. As well as the two musicians on board, a band plays along with events from the shore. Jousters carry a shield (a bouclier, technically a "pavois") 70 cm high and 40 cm wide, and a lance now 2.8 metres long (before 1920 it was 3 metres long). They are obliged to wear pure white costumes and white shoes. A direct hit will propel the unlucky jouster up into air before he falls into the water. The winner is the one (if there is one) remaining on the tintaine after the other has been hoist into the elements. The first sea jousts were In 1270 as Louis IX (now Saint Louis) left for his abortive Crusade to Egypt, sea-jousts took place at Aigues-Mortes. A tournament was recorded in Lyon on 2 June 1177. Sea Jousts were known all around the Mediterranean coast, apparently promoted by the Romans (who also liked jousts in their water-filled amphitheatres). An account survives of such an event held at Strasbourg in AD 303, in honour of the great Emperor Diocletian. Before that the Greeks had been fans of the sport - probably introducing it to Massalia (modern Marseilles), and before them the Egyptians were practitioners. Bas reliefs from Egypt (III to VI dynasties, 2780 to 2380 BC) show nautical jousts, possibly representing a genuine form of warfare, which look only marginally more dangerous than the methode Languedocienne.



Notice the two boys still swimming in the water.


And Voila as Zoe says here we are watching the sea jousts.


Suzanne Saxe-Roux