The great Dresden fair, of which the crossbow competition forms a part,
annually attracts many thousands of visitors. It is the week of the year
for the people of the towns and country of Saxony, and from the amount
of feasting and gaiety it entails, is sometimes called the ' tolle Woche'
or mad week.1
The old custom of electing as their King the most successful marksman
of a company of crossbowmen, longbowmen or arquebusiers, prevailed in many
parts of the Continent of Europe besides France, Belgium and Saxony.
For instance, John Evelyn during his visit to Geneva in 1646, writes:
' A little out of the Towne is a spaceous field which they call
Campus Martius, ... for here on every Sonday after the evening devotions,
this precise people permitt their youths to exercise armes and shoote in
gunns and in the long and crossebowes, in which they are exceedingly expert,
reputed to be as dexterous as any people in the world. To encourage this
they yearely elect him who has won most prizes at the mark to be their
king, as the king of the longbow, gun or crossebow. He then wears that
weapon in his hat in gold with a crowne over it, made fast to the hat like
a broach. In this field is a long house wherein their armes and furniture
are kept in severall places very neately. To this joynes a hall where at
certain times they meete and feast; in the glass windows are the armes
and names of their kings of armes.'2
1 For many of these notes on the crosshowmen
of Saxony I am indebted to Sir Condie Stephen late Resident British Minister
at Dresden, to Mr. H. J. Stanley recently vice-consul and to Hofrath Dr.
Peschell of the Korner Museum, Dresden.
2 Diary of John Evelyn, edited by Henry B.
Wheatley, F.S.A., i. 290-291
Fig.170. - Dresden Crossbow Bolt (Kronenbolzen). Half
Total weight, 2 1/2 oz. Weight of metal head and collar,
1 1/4 oz. The balancing-point of the bolt is 2 1/2 in. from its head-end.
Though the bolt has no feathers it flies accurately from the crossbow.