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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica


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QUINTAIN (0. Fr. quintaine, from Lat. quintana, a street between the fifth and sixth maniples of a camp, where warlike exercises took place), an instrument used in the age of chivalry in practising for the tournament. Originally perhaps the mere trunk of a tree upon which the knight practised his swordstrokes, as may be seen in an ancient illustration reproduced in Strutt's Sports and Pastimes, the quintain developed into various forms of posts at which the soldier tilted with his lance, not only on horseback but on foot and even in boats. An early form consisted of the wooden figure of a Saracen armed with shield and sword; the object being to strike the figure on the forehead directly between the eyes. This, according to Strutt, was called by the Italians "running at the armed man" or "at the Saracen." The "pelt" or post-quintain, was generally about 6 ft. high.

As late as the 18th century running at the quintain survived in English rural districts. In one variation of the pastime the quintain was a tun filled with water, which, if the blow was a poor one, was emptied over the striker. A later form was a post with a cross-piece, from which was suspended a ring, which the horseman endeavoured to pierce with his lance while at full speed. This sport, called "tilting at the ring," was very popular in England and on the continent of Europe in the 17th century, and is still practised as a feature of military and equestrian sport.

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Quintain'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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