Chainmail, codpiece, action in Polish 1410 battle rerun
Thousands of mediaeval buffs polished their armour, donned chainmail and codpieces and crossed swords Thursday to mark the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald in Poland.
On July 15, 1410, a Polish-Lithuanian army crushed the German-speaking Teutonic Knights in a battle that had a far-reaching impact on the region's geopolitics and enjoys iconic status today.
What started as a low-key gathering of Polish Grunwald enthusiasts in the early 1990s has spiralled into a huge, ultra-authentic event which organisers say is Europe's largest knightly reenactment.
At least 2,200 heavily-armoured warriors are set to take to the field Saturday in front of a crowd expected to top 120,000 -- the dictates of weekend tourism mean the main event often doesn't fall on the actual anniversary.
But the "knights" mark July 15 itself with skirmishes for the weekday visitors to the site in northern Poland.
Given the round anniversary, this year also saw a ceremony attended by Poland's president-elect Bronislaw Komorowski and his Lithuanian counterpart Dalia Grybauskaite.
Along with hundreds of fellow reenactors playing peasant levies and camp-followers, the knights spend a week camping out living-history style, amid artisan workshops.
"It's a bit like a chivalric Woodstock. We live for this the whole year," said Jaroslaw Struczynski, laughing.
He plays the Teutonic Knights' Grand Master Ulrich von Jungingen, who perished in the battle.
He sports a huge beard and his head is shaved apart from a top-knot -- earning funny looks in the weeks leading up to the reenactment, he said.
His sparring partner is Jacek Szymanski, in the role of Poland's King Wladyslaw Jagiello.
© 2010 AFP