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The Balestro Del Girifalco

The Balestro Del Girifalco

I wasn’t prepared for the rowdy behaviour of the tifosi as they attempt to put the opponent from another terziere off his aim! This was the 122nd Balestro Del Girifalco 2019, in Massa Marittima, Tuscany, Italy. A medieval crossbow tournament where crossbow men compete for the ‘Palio’ a silk banner painted by a different local artist each year. The tournament is between the ‘Terzieri’ or three historical districts of the city. Cittavecchia, Cittanuova and Borgo. Each terziere is represented by 8 crossbow men. Before the competition there is a parade with musicians and banner men or flag throwers.

The shoot-out takes place in the wonderful Piazza Garibaldi in front of Massa Marittima’s cathedral or Duomo, Cathedral Di San Cerbone. After the parade, the competitors shoot their bolts across the square to the target, known as the “corniolo” or “tasso”. The target is in the middle of a falcon which represents the enemy. Set up at a 36 meter distance, the bolts are shot using a centuries-old Italian-style crossbow, a reproduction of the ones used during the 1400s.

The crossbow man who manages to land closest to the bullseye can claim victory for his or her terziere. As a prize, the winner gets a golden arrow, while his or her neighbourhood gets to keep the famous palio.

Celebrating Saint Bernard (il giorno di San Bernardino, 20 May), this was the 122nd edition of the Balestro Del Girifalco, the first of two each year and took place on the 2 June 2019.

About The Author

Moritz

Photographer and some time publisher - or is it the other way around? Often seen around east london and further afield (Italy) with main man Rudy the bulldog @Rudybulldog (keeps me sane), love cycling, F1 (increasingly less so) and Liverpool fan but don't hold that against me.

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