Gesta Romanorum Vol. II (1871)/Of Spiritual Contests




The emperor Adonias was exceedingly rich, and delighted in tournaments, and in the crashing of spears. He once held a tournament, and caused it to be proclaimed that the conqueror should obtain a magnificent reward. This caused a great assemblage of the princes and peers of the kingdom; and the emperor ordained that the knights should be divided, so many on one side, and so many on the other. But they who first entered the field were to dispose their shields and arms in order, in a certain place: and further, whosoever of the adverse party would touch the shield of another with his lance, immediately he, whose shield was touched, being previously armed by a maiden selected for the purpose, should descend to the contest; and if he proved victorious, dispute the field with the next opponent. The day being come, the emperor assumed the imperial crown, and sat down at the royal table. Now a certain knight, having diligently inspected the shield of his antagonists, was wonderfully taken with one bearing three apples, or; and that shield he touched. Instantly the owner of it armed and met his opponent, and, after a short conflict, cut off his head, and received the promised recompense. (24)


My beloved, the emperor is our Lord Jesus Christ; the tournament is the conquest between God and the devils; the shields are some of the attributes of the Almighty, and the field is human nature. The shield bearing three golden apples, is the Trinity in Unity, against which the knight—that is, any man—strikes, when he commits a mortal sin. The reward of the conqueror is eternal life.



Note 24.Page 125.

"The most curious anecdote of chivalry, now on record, occurs in the ecclesiastical history of Spain. Alphonsus the Ninth, about the year 1214, having expelled the Moors from Toledo, endeavoured to establish the Roman missal in the place of Saint Isidore's. This alarming innovation was obstinately opposed, by the people of Toledo, and the king found that his project would be attended with almost insuperable difficulties. The contest at length between the two missals grew so serious, that it was mutually resolved to decide the controversy, not by a theological disputation, but by single combat; in which the champion of the Toletan missal proved victorious."—Warton.

In illustration of the mode of conducting tournaments, a short quotation from Froissart may be adduced.

"They ordayned in a fayre playne betwene Calays and Saynt Ingilbertes thre fressh grene pauilyons to be pyght up; and at the entre of every pauilion there hanged two sheldes, with the armes of the knightes; one shelde of peace, another of warre; and it was ordayned that suche as shoulde ryn and do dedes of armes shoulde touch one of the sheldes, or cause to be touched whiche as pleaseth them, and he should be delyuered according to his desire."—Berner's Froissard, Vol. II. cap. clxviii.