The Crossbowmen’s Quarry is a historic landmark in the city and can be easily visited as soon as one arrives in the historic center because it is just a short walk from the cable car stop.
Its initial use (in the last twenty years of the 19th century) was precisely as a quarry for the recovery of materials and the extraction of stone needed for the restoration of the nearby Palazzo Pubblico.
Later, according to architect Gino Zani’s 1935 design proposal, it was to be used as a site on which to erect a new Palace of Offices. With the Second World War and the bombing of 1944 this project was finally abandoned and only the high basement that supports the road and that today is part of the War Memorial remained.
From the 1960s onward this area has been equipped for shooting with the large Italian-style crossbow, an ancient game of arms that is now part of the historical recovery and folklore of the Republic of San Marino. The inauguration of the Crossbow Quarry officially took place on September 3, 1971.
Every year the Quarry hosts the Palio dei Balestrieri, a popular festival and tournament held on September 3., during the feast day of Saint Marino. There are traces of this event as early as 1537, the year in which some friars from the nearby Convent of St. Francis also participated precisely to demonstrate the involvement of all San Marino citizens and the strongly grass-roots nature of the initiative.
After a long period of suspension, the Palio was reinstated in 1956 and has been held ever since with historical costumes that reproduce the uniforms of the nine teams and the colors representing the flags of the 9 Castles of San Marino.
The teams are composed of five crossbowmen and a flag bearer; an officer, a herald, a page, two drummers and two trumpeters are also part of the Palio body. A total of 61 people participate.
The history of the San Marino Crossbowmen
Since the 14th century there is evidence of the presence of a corps of crossbowmen whose task was to defend the city walls and public order.
Since 1965, the crossbowmen have been training in the Quarry, and in 1966 the San Marino Crossbowmen’s Federation was born, a corps that is part of the Italian Crossbowmen’s Federation founded in 1966 along with the famous formations of Gubbio, San Sepolcro, Massa Marittima and Lucca.
Today they are part of a strong tradition that lives again not only in San Marino, but is also recognized beyond the borders, thanks to the numerous titles and awards they have won.
Torneo dei Castelli – Tournament of the Castles
The event is held annually and consists of a challenge between the best five shooters from each of the Republic’s castles, who compete for a coveted prize: a fine, handcrafted silver cup.
The cup, once won, will find its home in the winning castle, where it will be displayed at the headquarters of the Castle Council until the next edition of the event, which will take place the following year. Only those who manage to triumph for three consecutive years will have the privilege of keeping it permanently. To date, no team has yet succeeded in the arduous feat.
The authentic protagonists of this fascinating event are the fencers, flag-wavers, musicians and actors belonging to the San Marino Crossbowmen’s Federation, who wear sumptuous costumes that evoke the history of the late 15th century.