Illustration of a La Soule Game
567 × 768 757 × 1,024 2,002 × 2,709
source: Wikimedia Commons
author: J. L. de Condé
A full-page illustration depicts a large mob of over a hundred people in a parish street. In the center of the image, a group of men at the front of the mob fight over a ball, with two or three men pulling it in different directions. A caption below the illustration, followed by its translation here, is as follows:
“La soule, en Basse-Normandie. D’après un croquis de M. J. L. de Condé.”
“La soule, in Lower Normandy. Based on a sketch by Mr. J. L. Condé.”
Illustration: February 1852
This sketch by French artist J. L. de Condé depicts a match of la soule, a medieval mob football game played in Normandy. The illustration was published in the French newspaper L’Illustration in February of 1852, providing modern historians with perhaps the clearest depiction of la soule ever recorded.
La soule was a football sport known for its chaos and massive scale. Like other mob football games, matches could involve hundreds of players and expand across miles of variable terrain. As seen in this image, huge groups would brawl for the ball in an attempt to bring it back to their team’s parish. La soule is unique from the other mob football sports in that one variation employed the use of sticks to handle the ball, likely in a style similar to field hockey.
This sport, along with other medieval mob football sports including Welsh cnapan and Irish caid, was central in the development of modern football sports such as soccer, rugby, and American football.
French La Soule | Medieval Mob Football | Welsh Cnapan | Irish Caid | History of Football (American) | History of Rugby Football | History of Soccer | History of Ball Sports | History of Hockey
Rowley, C. (2015). The shared origins of football, rugby, and soccer. Rowman & Littlefield.
Nauright, J. (2012). Sports around the World: History, Culture, and Practice. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.