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Chainmail, codpiece, action in Polish 1410 battle rerun

Grand Master of the Teutonic Order Bruno Platter (left) with Romanian President Traian Basescu, Poland's President-elect Bronislaw Komorowski and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite standing behind a Polish flag. Photo: Janek Skarzynski/AFP

Grand Master of the Teutonic Order Bruno Platter (left) with Romanian President Traian Basescu, Poland's President-elect Bronislaw Komorowski and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite standing behind a Polish flag. Photo: Janek Skarzynski/AFP

Thousands of mediaeval buffs polished their armour, donned chainmail and codpieces and crossed swords to mark the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald in Poland.

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 re-enactment.

At least 2,200 heavily-armoured warriors took to the field on Saturday in front of a crowd of about 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 re-enactment, he said.

His sparring partner is Jacek Szymanski, in the role of Poland's King Wladyslaw Jagiello.

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