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Curious Fact of the Week: The Largest Medieval Battle in Modern Times

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Each July, a campground in Pennsylvania is overtaken by horde of around 15,000 medieval invaders. They set up a temporary town for 17 days that for the duration even has its own zip code. The occupation is known as the Pennsic War, and is the largest event for the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), with throngs of people recreating the pre-13th century.

article-imageA battle at its peak (photograph by Danielle Defrancesco)

As one of the world’s most epic participatory role playing experiences, the Pennsic War doesn’t just involve staged battles with thousands of participants, but also has a whole town that pops up with period pavilions, merchants, and a mayor. The name is a portemanteau of Pennsylvania and Punic War, and the fighting has been raging since 1972. The official cause for conflict is the ongoing tension between the SCA’s Kingdom of the East and the Middle Kingdom, although some say the initial run for camping land when the War begins is the real battle. 

article-imageView of the Pennsic War encampment (photograph by Erica Palmer)

The War begins when the leaders of each “kingdom” break an arrow between them, and then the clashes between visiting kings begin. Yet it’s not all simulated violence — the Pennsic War also has a strong old-fashioned party scene, along with period-appropriate entertainment like acrobatics, dance, music, and theater, as well as a whole bunch of parades. Because why dress up and travel all the way to a quiet spot of Pennsylvania without proudly proclaiming your devotion to this most modern of medieval gatherings?

article-imageCharging into the fray (photograph by Sarah Goslee)

If you want a glimpse of the action without becoming an anachronism yourself, here’s an on-the-ground report from Voice of America:

 THE PENNSIC WAR, Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania


Curious Facts of the Week: Helping you build your cocktail party conversation repertoire with a new strange fact every week, and an amazing place to explore its story. See all the Curious Facts here>