Tommaso Camilloni: Crossbow in Caglo


by Christopher Lopez

Tommaso Camilloni makes clothing for a living, but his passion lies with his medieval weaponry.

Tommaso sightingTommaso, his father, and sister compete on a balestra (or crossbow) team on behalf of Cagli, Italy. They store their equipment in their family’s clothing factory, which makes some of Italy’s well-known, high-end designer clothing. While Tommaso clearly is proud of the family business, his eyes light up when he talks about balestra.

“It’s like an emotional experience,” he says.

Tommaso explains that each team carries its respective city’s crest, and team members get the rare chance to represent their hometown on a national scale.

In the front room of his family’s enormous clothing plant sits an enormous weapon. The large, stationary crossbow looks ancient. This four-foot-long weapon sits permanently on a moveable cart. It is clear that this crossbow is far too heavy for any one person to carry.

Tommaso has a twinkle in his eye as he explains that the hand-carved wooden tilt of the bow comes from a pear tree. The mechanics are made of cold, dense steel, and the string was crafted from thin, oiled-leather straps. This medieval weapon is large and deadly. Surprisingly, this particular weapon’s birthplace is Assisi, the same as St. Francis, a patron saint of Italy.

Tommaso explains that the large, stationary balestra is not used in actual competition. “It’s too easy. You get to sit down to shoot it,” he says. “It’s like a canon.” He added that competitive balestra is more “like a rifle.”

it's like an emotional experienceThe factory’s rooms look just as visitors would expect. Tables are draped in fabric in various colors and sizes. But alongside the new clothing hangs special pieces of fabric: 18 artful, interesting competition uniforms. The mixing of 21st century dresses with Renaissance-era uniforms serve as a visual representation of Tomasso’s two loves – his profession and his balestra. The uniforms are thick and heavy and bear the crest of the Cagli team.

He proudly shows pictures of him and his team in full medieval attire.

Between each of the uniforms hang the competition crossbows. Tommaso reaches for one to show how it works. He sets the bow on the cement factory floor. He grabs a metal clamp from the table next to him, resting the bow between his legs as he uses the clamp to pull back the string.

Tommaso and his team, the Balestrieri dell’Oca, compete in Italy’s crossbow league. Tommaso says it is not easy to become a member of this league because competing cities must demonstrate ties to a historical crossbow patron. Luckily, Cagli has a long history of balestra. Luckily, Tommaso and his family are proud to continue that tradition.


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