Il Balestro del Girifalco

One of the most interesting folkloric manifestations of Maremma is the "Balestro del Girifalco" that takes place in the town of Massa Marittima twice a year, namely: the third Sunday of May, in honor of S. Bernardino da Siena, born in Massa Marittima And died on May 20th, and the second Sunday in August to celebrate the city's free city.
The event was established in the 14th century. As a show for the citizens, with the intent of educating the young Massetans on the "praiseworthy exercise of the ballet", as read in a precious document found in 1959, with particulars on August 10, 1476. The whip, a deadly weapon, is a symbol of the warrior virtues of the Republic of "Massa di Maremma", which had intense life in the 13th and 14th centuries: archbishops and archers formed the militia for defense of the Republic. The task of training citizens to handle this weapon was entrusted to the Master of the Balesters; Another important character inside the body of the Balestrieri was the Camerario, guardian of the weapon.
The presence of these two significant figures shows the importance of the crossbows. Public Palio took place regularly until 1554, when the city fell under the domination of Florence, only in 1960 the event was restored; Since then it is held in the main square, between the elegant and austere façades of the 14th century palaces, preceded by the procession in Renaissance garments, which straddles the streets of the town reaching to the square in front of the Duomo. Before the race, a choreographic procession takes place in medieval costume and the bandwagon's performance in a beautiful historical re-enactment. The target of the 24 whippers (divided into three teams called Terzieri) is a big shadow of a robbery bird, the Girifalco, symbolizing oppression.
At the center of the template there is a tapered wood trunk, called "Tosso" or "Corniolo", which measures about 12 cm in diameter. The race is won by the winger who sets the arrow in the center of the target or at the closest point to it.
The winner receives the symbolic golden arrow in the prize and the Terziere is the winner of the silk drapery field, painted every year by a different artist, who will be jealously kept in the Terziere's seat.


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