Western combat through history and film: An introduction to the work and artistic mission

Plan Author

  • Reily Mumpton, 2016

Fields of Concentration

  • Film and Video Studies
  • History

Sample Courses

Project Description

A narrative film and paper exploring the relationship of Canon Law and the use of judicial combat in legal settlement.

Faculty Sponsors

  • Adam Franklin-Lyons
  • Jay Craven

Outside Evaluator

  • Stephen Shellenbean, Autumn Trees Productions


This Plan of Concentration examines legal practice of the Holy Roman Empire during the thirteenth century, including a period narrative feature focused on accurate portrayal of a historic account and story. The first component is a research paper examining medieval legal history and texts, and their influence on Germanic legal practice during thirteenth-century reform. The paper specifically aims to discuss the use of trial by ordeal and trial by combat within Germanic legal code, and the struggles of both secular and ecclesiastic authority in implementing the reform movements within Germanic law courts. The second part is a narrative film, based on a related historical story, The Dog of Montargis. The third and final part is an interpretive program on the history of Western Martial Arts and social violence within the Holy Roman Empire.


Stemming from early Germanic legal tradition, “trial by combat” was a means of settling legal disputes in both secular and ecclesiastical law courts, which would take place in the lists1 between representatives of the defendant and appellant (or their respective parties). The winner of the duel or combat would be declared as having the righteous case in the eyes of God. This practice of court proceedings was standard in legal practice for centuries especially within the Holy Roman Empire. By the fourth Lateran council in 1215, the papacy took strong measures to stamp out the use of violence (trial by combat and trial by ordeal) within legal proceedings, in support of the larger peace movement of the eleventh century.

Scene opens with DeNarsac and Clarisse sitting at the table eating. The only sound heard is the wind outside and the clink of utensils. A knock comes at the door. DeNarsac rises and answers. Fernand and Luc enter. Clarisse rises.

FERNAND: DeNarsac (nodding to Clarisse) M’lady

DENARSAC: What news?

Fernand removes his hat.

FERNAND: DeNarsac, the court has reached their decision. Given the lack of support-

DeNarsac half turns, cursing silently and bringing his hand down on the table.

FERNAND: On both sides…

DeNarsac looks up.

FERNAND:…the court has decided the matter shall be settled in the lists. You against Richard.

DENARSAC: Trial by arms?

Fernand nods. Everyone stands quiet as the grave.


FERNAND: You shall present yourself before the lists at first light, three days hence.


History and storytelling have both been key inspirations for me my entire life, and having the opportunity to combine those fields in creating a narrative film was fantastic. Plan allowed me the freedom to create my own specific field of study, combining my interests into a cohesive work, with support from some of the best college professors I have ever worked with.

I am currently working as a videographer for a local company and doing freelance film work and historical interpretation. My Plan gave me the tools and experience needed to really push myself in these fields and excel at videography follow school.