Joglars and Minstrels

Joglars also went by the name of jongleurs, though the latter term didn’t come into use until the 16th century. Joglars were performers who played at fairs and at court. Though the name translates as juggler, they actually did much more than juggle. They were all-around performers, singing, telling stories, playing instruments, and doing acrobatics. Most were itinerant vagabonds, often from the lower classes, though some were offered permanent places at the homes of the nobility. They flourished during the 13th century and were popular until they were replaced by the growth of secular theatre.

Minstrels were secular musicians employed by noblemen, cities, and guilds or confraternities. They differed from joglars in 2 ways: first, they specialized in playing musical instruments, and second, they were hired on a semi-permanent or permanent basis. The minstrel troupes had a decided hierarchy to them. Trumpeters and drummers were at the top, both in terms of rank and pay, followed by wind players, then players of stringed instruments. Eventually minstrel groups were identified as either loud or soft, depending on how loud the particular instruments were in the troupe.

Origins of the Minstrels
During the Gothic period, feudal courts hired local performers for an evening’s entertainment. Their skills were widespread and versatile: juggling, singing, playing instruments, and performing magic tricks. By about the late 12th century, the courts became more sophisticated, and the entertainment became more frequent and more specialized. Performances were now given at betrothals, weddings, tournaments, dances, and processions. By the 13th century, as the number of fortified towns grew, the hiring of minstrels by guilds became a status symbol of the growing middle class.

First: juggler screenshot from Stronghold 2
Second: minstrels from

Dictionary of the Middle Ages, v. 7-8, Joseph R. Strayer, editor in chief.

~Write-up by Kester