Tilting-at-the-ring stems from the Middle Ages, where riders competed against each other on horseback in an effort to entertain the European nobility. When the tournament arrived in Denmark, it was interpreted more as a folk festival and over time the opponent was exchanged with a ring, since the tournament often demanded the lives and mobility of the contestants. King Christian the III and his son Frederik the II introduced tilting-at-the-ring to Denmark in the 1500s and changed the battle of the knights to a riders tournament.
If you are interested in knowing more, you can visit the only tilting-of-the-ring museum in Denmark at the yellow half-timbered house in Kirkegade at gain more insight into the history of the tilting-of-the-ring festival. The house is also the second oldest house in Sønderborg. Read more about the museum here.
Nowadays the riders compete for the title of King. To achieve the title you have to be able to master the art of riding gallop through a gallows and at the same time spear the ring with your lance. To begin with, the ring has a diameter of 22 mm, sitting in a bracket from two strings. If you succeed in collecting all 24 rings, you are through in the tournament. Now the competition becomes more difficult, since the hole within the ring decreases, until it is only 6 mm wide. The one who survives the most rounds is proclaimed king, although a crown prince and prince is also found.
The biggest tilting-at-the-ring festival in Scandinavia takes place in Sønderborg during the weekend between week 27 and 28, from Friday to Monday, where ca. 500 riders participate in an impressive parade both before and after the tournament on the tilting-at-the-ring square.
Make sure not to miss the parade Friday or Sunday, where you can admire beautiful horses and listen to the music of both local and foreign bands. During the festival both children and adults are entertained. For example there is bike tilting-at-the-ring for kids, the traditional 'coffee table' for seniors and the famous tilting-at-the-ring lunches with up to 1100 participants. The festival square has carousels, stalls with the famous tilting-at-the-ring sausages and beer tents. The programme of the tilting-at-the-ring festival in Sønderborg is available at the tourist office approx. 3 weeks prior.
On Tuesdays during high season, you can experience a bit of the tournament from the Middle Ages on the historical tilting-at-the-ring track at Sønderborg Castle. Here the riders compete while wearing real Middle Ages costumes.
Most of the parades start Sundays at 11.30 followed by tilting-at-the-ring tournaments.
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