The Collection of Crossbows
No less than 140 crossbows have been carefully chosen and acquired over the years in order to assemble a collection worthy of the title Musée Suisse de l’Arbalète. In the meantime, this collection ranks among the three best worldwide.
The astonishing works on display allow a good view into the various mechanical developments of this ancient arm which dates back nearly 2’000 years.
For example, the most ancient piece is the mechanism of a Chinese crossbow, dating 475-221 B.C. It is cast in bronze and beautifully inlaid with gold ornaments. The most recent piece is a sporting crossbow, still in use at Swiss competitions today.
In 2013, a traditional, annual celebration was revived, the “Tir au Papegay”. This competition takes place in the inner courtyard of the Château and is carried out with purpose-built crossbows of hardwood and steel. Until 1798, such competitions were held during the month of May, where participants would attempt their shooting skills on a type of wooden parrot perched on a tall pole and was very popular in the canton of Vaud.
Traditionally, the crossbow is often associated with the Swiss through the story about William Tell, - in the 20th century, it was even chosen as a label for Swiss quality products.
Juerg A. Meier, curator, Château de Grandson