The most unique of all the medieval tournaments.
Marostica in Veneto, Italy

If you love the medieval tournaments, the Piazza degli Scacchi (Chess square) in Marostica , in the Italian region of Veneto, is famous for the chess game with living pawns (people and horses).

This show takes place every two years in September during even numbered years.

The living chess game

It’s a bit kind of different from the medieval tournaments usually performed in the Middle Ages, because it’s not about the performance of a chivalrous fight or such.

It’s instead a playful game of chess with living pawns with no battles.
The 2 hours in a highly suggestive medieval atmosfere is recreated thanks to over 550 walks-on wearing costumes of the time, tens of colorful gonfalons, fires, balls and ancient music.

The celebration draws its inspiration from an historical fact, which happened in 1454, when Marostica was part of the Republic of Venice.

The reenactement is so suggesting that even cities like Toronto in Canada, Stuttgart in Germany and a few others, have invited the Marostica actors to travel there and put on the show.

If you happen to be in Veneto in September of any even year, you might want to take a trip to the beautiful town of Marostica, so not to miss this famous ot its own type medieval tournament.

What’s the living chess game story about?

The performance takes place in the main square of Marostica called Piazza degli Scacchi, paved with the typical white and pink check board, made in Asiago stone.

Way back in 1454 two noble knights, the warriors Rinaldo and Vieri, fell in love at the same time with Lionora, the beautiful daughter of Taddeo Parisio, the Lord of the manor of Marostica.

As it was the custom in many medieval towns and villages, the two young men made the decision to fight in a duel.
But the Lord of the Manor, to avoid any bloodshed, forbad the duel and ordained that the two suitors had to fight in a much less bloody chess game.

The prize at stake was the wedding with Lionora.

The game had to be very particular and unique. The pawns were actually real in flesh and blood, with the two suitors outside the board ordering the living pawns the moves they were to perform.

The game ended up to be a playful event, a celebration day enlivened by parades of knights and foot soldiers, balls, music, jugglers and fires, with people of all types attending, from the peasant to the noble.

This living chess game which happened back in the Middle Ages was something of its own kind, different from the classical medieval tournaments taking place at the time throughout Europe, from England and Germany, to France.

What the real medieval tournaments were about

The difference between the playful Marostica game which took place back in 1454 and the other tournaments of the time hinges on the fact the the chess game was purely...a game, having no other goals than to replace a bloodshed with a joyful celebration.

About the very Middle Ages tournaments, at first, around the 10th century, it was about some harsh fights among knights, often mortal, as a pure demonstration of strenght or with training goals.
Often the winners divided the war chest, as they would in a real battle.

With time, the medieval tournaments became more and more regulated, and the battle, while keeping its training goals, turned into something less violent, with blunt weapons, kind of a fiction, with less violent fights.

Some scholars think that the word tournament originates from the fact that the knights used to turn around in a circle, kind of a dance, before starting the battle.

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