For two weeks every summer, a campground in the American state of Pennsylvania is transformed into a medieval village where people dress and act as if they were living back in the middle ages. There are tournaments, musical performances and, perhaps most importantly, battles in nearby fields just for the honor and glory of it all.
The 38th Pennsic War was held last month, drawing 10,953 participants. Pennsic is the largest event held by the Society of Creative Anachronism and draws people interested in recreating a little piece of the medieval world.
It looks like the real thing. Knights under the command of kings battle for personal honor and the glory of their kingdoms. While the weapons are wooden and the "dead" leave the battlefield on their own feet, the passions of the warriors are real. Excitement drives them on. They train at home during the year to prepare for these events and go by names of their choosing.
Many return year after year. This commander of a Roman cohort, who calls himself Dominus, is a veteran of 14 such wars. "It gives me and my friends some great stories, some great experiences, some great adventures to share, to talk about and remember together for years to come," Dominus said.
A code of honor governs what happens. The warriors determine for themselves the seriousness of their wounds. Marshals responsible for safety and order declare timeouts to regroup. The Society for Creative Anachronisms organizes the event.
"We work very, very hard at our safety," says, Master Maceanruig, "In 40 years of the society we haven't lost anybody in the battle yet."
A full authentic set of regalia and weapons can cost $10,000. And, in one concession to the modern age, warfare is not only for men.
"You get a real challenge when you go out there," Caecilia Decurion explains, "because when you're wearing a helmet not many people realize you're a girl. You kind of get like a fair fight and that's cool."
But most of the 11,000 people here do not participate in the fighting. They choose less violent pleasures. They go to the bazaar and sample goods that would be available to a person who lived between the sixth and sixteenth century. They learn crafts that were popular in a slower and less complicated age.
"Pennsic - as a whole, is an experience where I can get away from the hustle-bustle of everyday life," Issac Rothstein says, "and get to know the meaning of community with my friends."
There is even a daily newspaper, which publishes news of village life, including news of who is winning the tournaments, which dedicated to honoring women.
"Today our theme is definitely the pleasure of the ladies. In fact, the ladies have directed these gentlemen, who are currently fighting at a barrier, to fight for their pleasure," Mistress Marcele De Montsegur states.
The winner of the war this year was the Eastern Kingdom, comprised of warriors from the eastern parts of Canada and the United States. And as their reward? They had the right to claim the city of Pittsburgh, a claim they understand probably won't be honored by any of the city's modern-day politicians. As for the losers, their pride may have been injured, but they know that they can come back again next year.
See also this video report about Pennsic