The tilt at the ring in Sønderborg
The second weekend of July, lasting for 4 days, a whole town is dedicated for tilting at the ring. The town bubbles of life, tramps of horses on paving stones, cavalcades, tattoing, a fun fair, light, music and happy people. The most important is however the competition, with the gallows by the castle, where a king or a queen, a crown prince and a prince will be crowned as worthy winners of the competition. They may wear the honourable title throughout the following year. The fun and games ends on Monday with a tremendous display of fireworks and partying until the early hours of the morning. The tilt at the ring in Sønderborg is the regions biggest riders festival and popular festival with the participation of up to 500 riders and 40,000 guests. Two large colourful cavalcades starts out from Sønderborg castle on Friday and Sunday at exactly 11:30 a.m., where all the riders participate along with a marching band, horse drawn carriages with musicians and heralds on horseback. The cavalcade ends at the tilting course after which the tilt for the ring and the titles starts among the riders. One of the tilt’s special highlights is Monday’s quite unique tilt at the ring’s luncheon, where nothing less than 1,400 men participate annually. It is the world’s biggest gentleman’s luncheon, and it features several well-known figures, who return year after year. Tickets are very sought after and hard to come across. The luncheon starts at noon on Monday. During the event community singing and eating will take place in the tent, and halfway through the evening, the tent will be opened to women as well as the rest of the public.
Back then during the Middle Ages in the 1500’s, tilting at the ring was an infamous and dreaded type of entertainment at Courts around Europe, where knights risked their lives and mobility in the matches. Christian III and Frederik II brought the tilt at the ring to Denmark as a competition, not as deadly matches. The greatest royal tilter in Denmark was Christian IV, who not only won tilts domestically but also abroad. Tilting at the ring reached South Jutland as late as around the 1800’s, where it in the beginning was a competition held at village festivals, but it has since them become a typical popular festival, which meant that already by 1850, 450 riders participated in a tilt in the town of Augustenborg. The first tilt at the ring in Sønderborg took place i 1888. And when a tradition is still alive after more than 200 years in this part of the country, it must have some quite unique qualities to it.
The tilt at the ring takes place in 22 courses, which are called gallows, where the ring hangs from a rope between the two posts of the gallow. A scribe at every gallow notes if a rider takes the ring or not. The riders decide for themselves at what height the ring is to be placed, before riding. The ring must be taken at a gallop. Trotting does not count. The ring is taken when it sits on the tip of the lance, which the rider carries during the ride. Thus it is not enough to knock the ring off. It must be caught and sit on the lance. The hole in the ring is different in size depending on how far in the game, the rider has come. The biggest ring has an 0.9 inch hole. The smallest only has an 0.2 inch hole. All riders ride 24 times with an interval after 12 rounds. Those riders who take the ring all 24 times, qualify for the finals, called the King’s rides. The rider who takes most rings in these rounds will be crowned as the King or Queen, and will receive the King’s Price. After that follows the title as Crown Prince and then Prince. Everyone may participate, but there is an age limit of 6 years. The riders must be dressed in a dark jacket, white trousers, a white cap and long black boots. The lance must be white. It meassures 6,1 feet in length and has a leaded tip and the main weight in the bottom.
Tilt at the ring must be experienced at least once in your life
Now you know the tilt’s history, what goes on on the course and why. Now, there is only one thing to do. That is to book yourself into a nice bed and breakfast in South Jutland, and visit one of the generally more than 50 tilts for the ring that take place in the area from May through September, of which the absolute biggest tilts take place in Sønderborg and the town of Aabenraa. At Sønderborg Caste a replica of a medieval tilt at the ring gallow can be found. Here historical tilts at the ring are performed every Tuesday in July, always at 5 p.m. At the same time the tilt at the ring’s history will be told. Admission is free.
Gps: 54.915474, 9.778241
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