Masterpieces of European armour smithing, taking you into the world of honourable knightly skirmishes, are on display from 15 November 2022 to 2 April 2023 at an exhibition in the Royal Łazienki Museum. The valuable items come, among others, from the State Art Collections in Dresden [The Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (SKD)], which has one of the finest collections of tournament and ceremonial weaponry.

Knights’ tournaments, first organised in France in the 11th-12th centuries, became an integral part of medieval and Renaissance European customs. Originating from court culture, they survived into modern times as an element of a glamorous aristocratic spectacle.

Tournaments have gone through a long evolution over the centuries. Initially treated as practical military exercises without any deeper significance, they gained an ideological foundation over time. They became an emanation of the chivalric ethos, a noble competition devoid of the spirit of hostility, in which Christian virtues (defence of the Church and the weak from harm) and the values of secular culture were promoted: generosity, respect for women, courtliness or good manners.

Masterpieces of European armour

The exhibition at the Royal Łazienki Museum tells the story of the tournament culture of the 15th-16th centuries in Poland and Europe. Towards the end of the Middle Ages, full plate armour was developed; it enabled armourers to develop advanced designs, including tournament armour. It was manufactured in many variants, with some combat elements being dropped in order to reinforce those elements that are most vulnerable to impact in mock combat. It is perfectly shown at the exhibition, the centrepiece of which are life-size mannequins illustrating the duel of mounted warriors. Their sixteenth-century, over 30-kilogram armour was fitted with distinctive elements to give additional protection from the blow of the knight’s lance. These precious artefacts – masterpieces of European armouring – come from the collection of the Dresden Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen, which boasts one of the finest collections of tournament and ceremonial weaponry.

In the display cabinets around the "tilt barriers", elements of the tournament’s offensive and protective armaments are presented, coming from two of the country’s most prestigious weaponry collections, i.e. the Museum of the Polish Army and the Wawel Royal Castle.

Of particular note is the ‘frog-mouth’ type helm, undoubtedly one of the icons of the tournament custom, and the decorated wooden shield used in 16th century duels of the Hussars. On the other hand, two impressive two-handed swords from the Dresden collection refer to the struggle on foot.

Opening hours, admission to the exhibition

The exhibition "From Tournament to Carousel. Knights’ Games in Modern Europe" is open on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 10:00 to 16:00 and on Friday and Saturday from 10:00 to 17:00.

Entry with a ticket to the Museum of Hunting and Horsemanship – the Royal Łazienki Museum Branch, that is PLN 16 – normal ticket, PLN 8 – reduced ticket, PLN 1 – children aged up to 7 years and youth up to 26 years of age; on Friday admission is free.