Medieval Games - Indoor Games & Entertainment

What we know of medieval recreation indoors generally relates to what we know to have taken place in medieval castles, for it was the wealthy landowners and knights who had the time and resources for such.

Medieval recreation indoors divided into 2 areas:

Entertainment provided by hired performers
This included plays and puppet shows as well as musical performances from travelling minstrels. Musical instruments played at the time would have included the harp, flute, hurdie-gurdie, drums and bagpipes. Many minstrels would travel from castle to castle entertaining the wealthy lords and ladies and they would usually offer to compose songs especially for them. The early form of travelling minstrel was the troubadour from 12th century France. Defined as an amateur performer of noble birth you can read more about Troubadours on our dedicated page. Music was also played for dancing to be enjoyed and storytellers and poets were often hired as well as jesters to keep people amused.

Entertainment in which the landowners, their families, friends and knights would participate
This included playing card games, gambling with dice and playing a variety of board games. Draughts and an early version of backgammon were popular. Knights had a particular preference for chess as it was a war game. Believed by many to have been brought back to Europe from the Middle East and India by the crusading knights, the game of chess in medieval times was played with a set of pieces carved from bone or ivory. Medieval knights are also believed to have enjoyed playing dice and gambling on the outcome. What they would have thought about the opportunities that exist today for gambling or playing poker online one can only imagine! Without question, they would have indulged themselves - at least to a degree.

The excitement and rush of adrenalin that medieval knights were accustomed to and obviously enjoyed in their lives during battle or during medieval tournaments would have made them serious candidates for gambling. We know little for certain about just how much gambling was done in medieval times, but it's fair to say it took place and was a familiar part of a medieval knight's life.

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