troubadours (trōō´bədôrz), aristocratic poet-musicians of S France (Provence) who flourished from the end of the 11th cent. through the 13th cent. Many troubadours were noblemen and crusader knights; some were kings, e.g., Richard I, Cœur de Lion; Thibaut IV, king of Navarre; and Alfonso X, king of Castile and León. Of the more than 400 known troubadours living between 1090 and 1292 the most famous are Jaufré Rudel de Blaia, Bernart de Ventadorn, Peire Vidal, Raimbaut de Vaqueiras, Folquet de Marseille (archbishop of Toulouse), Bertrand de Born, Arnaut Daniel, Gaucelm Faidit, Raimon de Miraval, Arnaut de Mareuil, and Guiraut Riquier. Of lower birth were the jongleurs who performed the troubadours' works and perhaps assisted in their composition. Troubadour lyrics were sung and accompanied by instruments that probably duplicated the melody (all the music preserved is monophonic). The poems were written in the southern dialect called langue d'oc. The most common forms were sirventes (political poems), plancs (dirges), albas (morning songs), pastorals, and Jeux-partis (disputes); the favorite subjects were courtly love, war, and nature. After the Albigensian Crusade (see Albigenses), in which many troubadours were caught up because their noble patrons were either sympathetic to the heretics or heretics themselves, Provençal culture declined. The influence of the widely traveling troubadours spread to central and N France, where their counterparts were the trouvères. In Germany they were imitated by the minnesingers. The tradition was also carried to Spain and Italy. In France annual festivals known as the Jeux Floraux were established in the 14th cent. to revive troubadour art.
See H. J. Chaytor, The Troubadours (1970); R. D. L. Jameson, Trails of the Troubadours (1970).