by Elaine Lillback, FHM Reporter
Medieval jousting was introduced to the Fairport Harbor museum guests on
March 11th. Sir Robert of Helsinki, Finland, is actually our Bob Noponen
II, and son of Janet and Bob Noponen I. Previous to his presentation,
Sir Robert had assembled his steel armor to stand before us in shining display.
Noponen is a member of Knights of Valour, which is owned by Shane Adams
of Canada. Adams, a horseman since childhood had formerly owned a horse lobby of discharged horses or those rescued from slaughterhouses. These
horses today, because of their value as trained joust horses, sell in
multiple thousands of dollars. They are big horses, and not quarter
horses. The big breeds are Percheron, Belgian, Warlander (cross between
Percheron and Friesian), Shire, and an American Cream Draft. The
Knights of Valour have seventeen steeds in the barn, all trained and
ready for jousting. Noponen loves to ride Paladin, a Percheron gelding,
and is one of the most dependable and admired horses in the herd.
Noponen, with a playful wink in his eye anda playful mirth to his voice
related that a peculiar personal incident, amusingly called job
reduction, had introduced Bob to the tools of a jouster at a jousting
tournament. He learned the *history and the trappings of jousting, like
a squire would. Squires are the helpers who are there to keep jousters
upright and in good battle gear.
Learning the mechanics and pieces/parts of the armor was most important.
Sir Robert described the stainless steel suit in detail and said, Im
building one for myself. This one is on loan from another knight.
The metal suit included the helmet, body, arms, and leg coverings, plus
the foot-wide, leather-backed chain waist cover to envelope the abdomen.
And finally, Sir Robert says, here is the coded target, divided into
nine one and a half inches of squares of blue and yellow color. That
provides he target for the opposing lancer.
Noponen said that this suit weighs 120 pounds. (The audience gasped at
the weight!) In order for a man to wear this suit of armor, he had to
be the oldest son of the family. That was the eldest son rule, much like
the farm in Finland. The Jouster also carried a ten-foot long spear
made of wood covered with steel. The cost of one of these suits today
is $8,000. If a knight hits the opposing jouster on his target, he gets
maximum points and gets more points if he unseats the jouster from his
mount. Each point is worth a certain amount of money.
Back in 1066 the Saxon Army and the Norman Army fought each other by
lining up, setting up their shields, and shooting their arrows from
behind this moveable fortification. Each side continued to shoot their
arrows at the enemy shield wall. However, this time, after running
parallel to the shield wall, the lancers on horseback turned the corner
and came behind the Normans and the shield wall and threw their spears
at them. After the lances had been thrown, the charging horses left the
shield wall and ran away, only to be followed by the enemy. The horses
had to be protected since they were extremely valuable in conflicts
That tradition has carried over to Knights of Valour's code. Today the
jousting horses are seldom hit with lances, and the jousters take
special care to protect them.
Steeds are very valuable. Noponen's
favorite mount would probably cost 50 thousand today to buy. However,
Paladin is not for sale.
Danger, danger, the jousters are exposed and Sir Robert has been hitand has had serious injuries. In spite of the injuries, the smiling
Sir Robert continues with the program which he finds exciting,
enjoyable, and eminently worth doing.
Training for jousting and the scheduled performances often lasts eleven
months every year. The Knights of Valour have been featured on a
History Channel special called Full Metal Jousting. Noponen was seen
in that program. Not to be outdone, even some ladies have taken up
jousting. Southern Ohio has the Renaissance in June. It is down near
Dayton, Ohio. There are other tournaments around the country and
Millie Laituri and Sue Troutman served delicious refreshments of
cookies and cakes before the joust!
text © Elaine Lillback, photos © Lasse Hiltunen and as noted on picture. Those without watermark belong to Noponen.