Tournament, also joust, military sport of the Middle Ages in Europe, in which knights, as individuals or in groups, engaged one another in combat with the object of exhibiting their courage and skill in the use of arms. A tournament was usually held on the invitation of a prince, who sent a herald to announce it through the prince's domain and to foreign courts. The prospective combatants hung their armorial shields on the trees, tents, and pavilions around the arena for inspection to show that they were candidates worthy, by their noble birth, military prowess, and unspotted character, of the honor of contending. The combat took place on horseback, although the combatants who had been dismounted frequently continued it on foot. The usual arms were blunted lances or swords. The period when tournaments were most in vogue was the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries. By 1500 the alteration in the social life and warfare of Europe had changed the character of the jousts so that they were no longer real combats but state pageants.