Medieval knights were paid

The knights in the Middle Ages

We imagine a knight in heavy armor, riding a horse and armed with a lance. Who does not know the stories of King Arthur's Round Table and his loyal warriors - such as Sir Lancelot or Sir Gawain, who were loyal to their master until death. They fearlessly stood up for what they believed in - no matter how hopeless the situation and no matter how overpowering the opponents. Were the knights really heroic figures, or rather cruel villains? Where does the term "knight" come from and what distinguishes it? How was a real knight trained?


The first known knights already existed in the Roman Empire, before the birth of Christ. However, they were not what we understand today as a knight. The term "knight" can be derived from the Central German word "riddare", which means something like "rider".

The name "Eques", which describes a Roman knight, has the same meaning: The Latin word "eques" literally means rider, the word "equus" means horse. A knight is generally thought of as a noble warrior on a noble steed - heavily armed and armed with a lance.

The actual knights of the Middle Ages have existed since the 8th century. It was then that the Moors invaded Spain and conquered most of the country. When they finally made their way across the Pyrenees to raid other countries, the Franks felt threatened and sent Franconian armored riders to repel an invasion by the Moors.

Only those who were rich could become a knight

This was also achieved by the militantly strong armored riders. Later they were instrumental in the recapture of the remaining parts of Spain. At the time of the Hungarian War in the 9th century, the Panzerreiter alone managed to drive the enemy army of the Hungarians to flight. Since then, they have become an indispensable part of the military.

At that time, those who did military service also bore the costs. This means that the equipment and food had to be paid for by the conscripts themselves. So a knight had to pay for his horse, his armor and his servants. From this one can conclude that only wealthy people had the opportunity to become knights. At first it was mainly members of the lower nobility. A "normal soldier" did not have the means to afford this.

Ruffians became "chivalrous"

At that time, however, not every knight was "chivalrous" in spirit - on the contrary. Many of the knights acted arbitrarily out of greed, striving for power or boredom and waged small wars or feuds with their neighbors - to the chagrin of the citizens of the country. So it came about that the church interfered in worldly matters and introduced the "peace of God". This was not only in their interest - in these open disputes, many places of worship also went up in flames.

It was also important to the high nobility, as they too saw themselves threatened by attacks on their belongings by the knights. The peace of God that the Church initiated in the 10th century consisted of several resolutions. Sudden attacks on unarmed clergy, farmers, traders and the destruction of buildings were prohibited. On certain days - for example, Lent and public holidays - warfare was completely forbidden. From now on, the behavior of a knight and his training were defined.

A long way to become a "real knight"

The training to become a knight lasted a full 21 years, starting right after the birth. So many people of the high nobility could no longer become knights because they lacked the training. The first seven years of the training were carried out with the mother's own, here Christian values ​​were conveyed.

At the age of seven, the future knight had to leave his home to serve a nobleman or knight as a noble boy, often also called a boy. During this time he was instructed in various things, so that he enjoyed a higher education. At that time, this was understood to mean fine, courtly manners, the study of biblical history as well as the legends and events of the past. There was also traditional music, singing and string playing. The knights swore the oath to lead a virtuous and godly life.

An essential part of the training was of course the training of physical strength and agility. For this reason, running, jumping, riding and swimming were practiced daily. Furthermore, it was necessary to train the handling of weapons: shooting with the crossbow, defending with the shield and fighting with sword and lance. At the beginning of the 15th year of life, the apprentice knights were promoted to squire. After passing the miners' union, they were finally made knights at the age of 21. The image of the knight at that time corresponded to an ideal: a brave, virtuous warrior with education and good behavior.

Click on the next arrow in the lower right corner to go to the second part of the article about knights. There you can find out more about famous orders of knights, the time of the bloody crusades and the end of the knighthood.