Medieval Crossbow Competitions

Medieval Archery in Maremma

Medieval archers at the Trofeo San Cerbone, Massa Marittima, Maremma, ItalyMedieval archers at the Trofeo di San Cerbone

Medieval crossbow competitions and medieval archery tournaments in Maremma in Italy: crossbows of the middle ages in action between rival quarters and Italian cities.

The "Trofeo San Cerbone" is one of Maremma's important medieval crossbow competitions.

It is a revered competition of skill between medieval archers held once a year in October in the wonderful medieval city setting of Massa Marittima within Maremma's metalliferous hills, and is an important part the San Cerbone Festa del Santo Patrono di Massa Marittima - the Festival of San Cerbone in honour if the patron saint of Massa Marittima.

A smaller event than its twice-yearly counterpart the Balestro del Girifalco (see below), its competing middle ages archers nonetheless require the same level of skill that comes from considerable practice and the construction of the best of medieval crossbows.

Preparing for the next round in the medieval archery competition in Massa Marittima, Maremma, ItalyThree new competing medieval archers mount the podium and get ready for the next round

The event is one of my favourite autumnal things to do in Tuscany. It is less touristy and more of a town event than the Balestro del Girifalco and as such is less well known: you will be hard pushed to find mention of it in any guide book. Which is why it always delights me to see the sheer joy on the faces of the occasional English, German or American visitors eyes when they arrive in the town and wonder at what they have stumbled upon during a trip to see Massa Marittima.

Added to which it is entirely free.

Next year I will remember the extra film/battery back-up for my videocamera and add a video here so that you may hear the incredible sound of the drums and trumpets echoeing off of the walls of the narrow medieval streets as the parade arrives, see the talented flag throwers, the rich colours of the medieval dress... and share in some of the sense of the occasion.

The 2014 Festa di San Cerbone with more photos and the video.

And then there is the backdrop of Massa Marittima itself with its rich medieval architecture, history, alleyways, panoramic views of the Gulf of Follonica, Maremma Livornese and the surrounding wooded metalliferous hills. A great place to visit.

The photographs on this page were taken in October 2010 at the "17th Trofeo San Cerbone - the 17th San Cerbobe Trophy. "Gara di Tiro con la Balestra Antica all'Italiana fra i balestrieri della Società dei Terzieri Massetani e con la partecipazione straordinaria dei balestrieri della Compagnia Balestrieri Lucca" - the competition of Italian-style crossbow archers between the Society of Terzieri Massetani and with the special participation of the Society of Archers of Lucca.

The target - situated under the tower in the Piazza del Duomo.

weapons medieval crossbow target

Last arrow fired, the archers gather at the target to take a look.

Trofeo San Cerbone: Massa Marittima, Maremma Italy

First looks at who the winning arrow might belong to.

First looks at the medieval arrows to see who is the winner of the Trofeo di San Cerbone in Massa Marittima, Maremma, Italy

Taking the target away for inspection.

Medieval arrows embedded in the target at the 17th Trofeo San Cerbone, Massa Marittima, Maremma in Italy

Transporting the medieval arrows and target for inspection to decide the winner of the 17 Trofeo San Cerbone, Massa Marittima, Maremma, Italy

On the steps of the Cattedrale di San Cerbone and about to announce the winner of this years trophy.

The announcers in medieval costume for the 17 Trofeo di San Cerbone in Massa Marittima, Maremma Italy

Inspecting the winning arrow, spilt by subsequent arrows, some of which remain embedded in it.

Medieval archers inspect the winnin gmedieval arrow at the 17 Trofeo di San Cerbone in Massa Marittima, Maremma Italy

Wood-carring detail of one of the handmade medieval steel crossbows.

Medieval steel crossbow: wooden carving detail

Time to relax for a few minutes after the competition and before the parade to the cathedral.

Crossbow medieval and archer at Trofeo San Cerbone, Massa Marittima, Maremma Italy

The parade by of medieval archers and dignitary in historic costume.

Crossbows of the middle ages and their archers



Other Medieval Crossbow Competitions, Tournaments and Displays in Maremma

If you cannot be in Maremma in October, there are other opportunities to see medieval archery throughout the year.

Il Balestro del Girifalco
Massa Marittima

Medieval wooden crossbow and archer at the Balestro del Girifalco, Massa Marittima, Maremma

Unless you are lucky enough to have a friend or relation with an apartment overlooking the Piazza Garibaldi, you will need to purchase a ticket to see the medieval archers take their turns in trying to win the trophy at the Balestro del Girifalco. Held every fourth Sunday in May and second Sunday in August, the tickets cost around Euros 9,00.

It is a long event and not entirely suited to those who don't like to sit still for an hour or two, so if you have children with you, it might be better to come along towards the end of the tournament when the square is normally opened up to allow acces to all - for free - for the last shots.


Palio delle Sante
Santa Fiora

The Palio delle Sante is held on the last Sunday of July of each year in Santa Fiora, with a procession in mid-fifteenth century costume and an archery tournament between the different parts of the Comune and the towns capital.


Explore some more...

  • Interested in reading more about crossbows of the middle ages? These books are full of information on the history of medieval crossbows, how to make a medieval crossbow, medieval crossbow plans... etc.



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