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History

The crossbow competition is rooted in the history of Massa Marittima. The sound of shooting darts first echoed through the streets in the early 14th century, when documents of the time already described the Magister Balistrarum (the Crossbow Master) and, above all, the Camerario, the keeper of the city’s crossbows and other weapons. Aside from a parchment dated 2 August 1497, other evidence consists of the resolution passed by the Supreme Council in 1476 which stated:
‘Let crossbows be shot every three months. Let us ensure that young people are occupied in praiseworthy activities. Let us ensure that every three months crossbow competitions are held, four times a year…’ The modern-day re-enactment of the Balestro del Girifalco competition is a revival of this ancient tradition. In the late 1950s, a group of volunteers devoted themselves to rediscovering this ancient art.

On 12 June 1960 the first modern-day edition of the Balestro del Girifalco took place in its present form. The winner was a young man from Città Nuova, Gianfranco Salvadori, nicknamed ‘Bodda’, who was thus awarded the first Palio banner dedicated to St Bernardino and sewn by Mrs. Faelli Martini, a seamstress.