Crossbows at the Ready – A Day at the Andilly Medieval Fair: Part One

Les Grandes Médiévales d’Andilly, Andilly, France

Quite by chance, Sister-Chickpea came across an exciting looking event that was held not far from home.  It was a Medieval spectacle, over two weekends in May, and although I wasn’t sure what to expect – or whether it was worth the hefty €25 fee – I had the most amazing time.

Andilly is a little town some twenty minutes from Geneva, in French territory.  In fact, I’d not ventured down to this part of France before, and I was very taken by the views…

Views from Andilly, France

Views from Andilly, France

Views from Andilly, France

Views from Andilly, France

And in this wonderful setting, there is this little recreated world.  Unlike the two other medieval events I’ve attended (Bremgarten and Ribeauville) this wasn’t in a functioning town – it’s all built up for the event, and its immediate surroundings are fields.  It gives you the impression of being in this awesome little medieval bubble, which I would have thought makes this quite unique – and certainly makes it rather special.

It’s been going since 1996, and they are super organised.  There are so many things going on it’s almost overwhelming – at one point there was an almost constant run of music being played by little bands, which was just lovely – especially if you’re sitting and drinking your lemonade in the sun.

The entry to Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

The entry to Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

You pass through a fantastic gift shop where your child can get into the spirit of the age and get shields and swords and such-like.  I almost got a helmet and, indeed, a crossbow, but Sister-Chickpea pointed out that I needed neither of these items and though I don’t see what “need” has to do with it, I left the shop empty-handed.  If I had a child, I’d have totally had it bedecked and armed for battle.

Actually, it was lovely to see so many children (and some adults) dressed up and enjoying being medieval.  And the setting is immediately conducive to the idea of escaping into the past. The path down to the main area is lined with adorable tents – and down at the bottom of the slight slope is the start of the fete proper.

I do advise you to get a map of the site – it gives details of what events are going on, where, and at what time.  It’s worth investing some time to work out the things you want to do.  I also advise you to get to the events early – especially the recreations, like the jousts (Yes!  Jousts!) – there are a lot of other visitors around, so if you actually want to see what’s going on, you have to commit to an early arrival.

Tents set up in Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Tents set up in Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Life in a tent, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Life in a tent, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

These guys even have cool chairs and a 'Limoges enamelled' box, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

These guys even have cool chairs and a ‘Limoges enamelled’ box, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

The crowds at opening time at Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

The crowds at opening time at Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Lovely figure of a scholar on a flag pillar, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Lovely figure of a scholar on a flag pillar, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Cute soldier on a flag pillar, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Cute soldier on a flag pillar, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

The 10am Procession

The proceedings start with a procession of all those who are involved in the events of the day.  It’s a lovely way of seeing what’s coming up – and if you’re lucky, some quacks will select you to be vaccinated against/with the plague.

Representatives from the magnificently named Gruppo Storico e Sbandieratori Città di Castiglion Fiorentino, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Representatives from the magnificently named Gruppo Storico e Sbandieratori Città di Castiglion Fiorentino, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Hey, what's that he's looking at?  Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Hey, what’s that he’s looking at?  Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Ah, I see!  Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Ah, I see!  Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Gee, those folk from the Gruppo Storico e Sbandieratori Città di Castiglion Fiorentino can throw them flags real high, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Gee, those folk from the Gruppo Storico e Sbandieratori Città di Castiglion Fiorentino can throw them flags real high, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

And they swirl their flags pretty, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

And they swirl their flags pretty, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

And they go their way flapping their flags like wings, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

And they go their way flapping their flags like wings, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Quite honestly that man must have been frying in that armour, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Quite honestly that man must have been frying in that armour, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Impressive horn, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Impressive horn, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Representatives of my favourite guild: the crepe-makers, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Representatives of my favourite guild: the crepe-makers, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Discussing strategies, no doubt, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Discussing strategies, no doubt, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Seeing waaaay too much buttock as we were splashed with water by these nudes, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Seeing waaaay too much buttock as we were splashed with water by these nudes, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Performing troupe, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Performing troupe, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Raggedy soldiers, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Raggedy soldiers, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

From the Brazilian Rainforest, the Surui people, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

From the Brazilian Rainforest, the Surui people, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Another performing troupe, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Another performing troupe, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Plucky fellows frying in the heat, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, FrancePlucky fellows frying in the heat, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Plucky fellows frying in the heat, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

I think there are some underage soldiers snuck into that battalion... Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

I think there are some underage soldiers snuck into that battalion… Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Happy band of... something...Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, FranceHappy band of... something...Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Happy band of… something…Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Travelling musician, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Travelling musician, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Isn't he a bit young to be carrying an axe? Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Isn’t he a bit young to be carrying an axe? Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Guys with longbows, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, FranceGuys with longbows, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Guys with longbows, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

More musicians, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

More musicians, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Twirling fire! Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Twirling fire! Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Funny way to toast marshmallows, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Funny way to toast marshmallows, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

It's a skill - it's definitely a skill, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

It’s a skill – it’s definitely a skill, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Eugh!  Diseased persons! Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Eugh!  Diseased persons! Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

I’m glad we arrived in time to see the procession – it really set the tone for the rest of the day and it sort of had the spirit of a fair that had come to town, which was fun.

The Hundred Years War

One of the events that I really wanted to see was the recreation of the Hundred Years War.  It’s a sore topic amongst us English, as it’s the war (well, a set of wars) that basically ended our ownership of any French territory (except the area around Calais – and we lost that in 1558).  Still, Sister-Chickpea and I unashamedly cheered on our men who were, conveniently, positioned right in front of us.

The English King at Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

The English King at Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Here come the English!  Come on lads!  Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Here come the English!  Come on lads!  Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Archers for St George and England, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Archers for St George and England, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Waiting for the battle to start, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Waiting for the battle to start, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Staring down the enemy, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Staring down the enemy, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Quivers to the ready, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Quivers to the ready, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

This dude means business, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

This dude means business, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Dang!  I lost my sword, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Dang!  I lost my sword, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Come on you Englishman!  Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Come on you Englishman!  Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Firing arrows at the French, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Firing arrows at the French, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Ping!  Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Ping!  Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

The King looking magnificent, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

The King looking magnificent, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Engaging in battle, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, FranceEngaging in battle, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Engaging in battle, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Swinging wildly, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Swinging wildly, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

I don't know what that Frenchman is smiling about, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

I don’t know what that Frenchman is smiling about, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Isn't he a bit young to be experiencing the hell of war?  What trauma led him here?  What anger drives him?  Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Isn’t he a bit young to be experiencing the hell of war?  What trauma led him here?  What anger drives him?  Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

A fallen soldier, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

A fallen soldier, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

I do hope you're not going to swing that nasty looking weapon at me, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

I do hope you’re not going to swing that nasty looking weapon at me, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Collecting the dead, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Collecting the dead, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Dragging off the dead, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Dragging off the dead, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

The spoils of war, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

The spoils of war, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Beyonce - this is booty, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Beyonce – this is booty, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Oh look!  Joan of Arc has shown up, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Oh look!  Joan of Arc has shown up, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

IMG_2722

Yes, Joan of Arc looks magnificent, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Joan of Arc - boo! Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Joan of Arc – boo! Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Joan of Arc somehow defeating the brave English soldiers, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Joan of Arc somehow defeating the brave English soldiers, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Joan of Arc, all prim and smug after her victory, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Joan of Arc, all prim and smug after her victory, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Joan of Arc and a suspicious group of monks, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Joan of Arc and a suspicious group of monks, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Ah here comes... possibly Charles VII of France and his wife... not sure... Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Ah here comes… possibly Charles VII of France and his wife… not sure… Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Beautiful horses, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Beautiful horses, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Gee they look magnificent, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Gee they look magnificent, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

How adorable!  A bowing horse!  Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

How adorable!  A bowing horse!  Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

How scary!  A rearing horse!  Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

How scary!  A rearing horse!  Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

OK, the English are getting ready to fight again, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

OK, the English are getting ready to fight again, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Here come the cannons and arquebuses, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Here come the cannons and arquebuses, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

The blast of the arquebus, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

The blast of the arquebus, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

The blast of the cannon, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

The blast of the cannon, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Smoke covered battlefield, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Smoke covered battlefield, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Gloating dude, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Gloating dude, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Where's the rest of me? Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Where’s the rest of me? Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

That is a super-shiny suit, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

That is a super-shiny suit, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

The spectacle lasted probably about half an hour, and was good fun.  The commentary, when I tuned in and listened, seemed pretty good too, but I was lost a little in the details of what was happening in front of me.

The Trebuchet

The trebuchet was a major siege weapon of the Middle Ages, and it was fun to see it in action.  It works with a counterweight (the triangle with the yellow and red shield), so once the men have wound it up, the falling weight gives the shot its power.  Something like that anyway.  Not good with weapons or physics.

Anyway, the trebuchet could be loaded with all sorts of ammunition – but stones and fire were two of the most popular and effective.

There was a commentary on this too, but it was hard to hear what the fellow was saying – anyway, in the end the whole thing is pretty straightforward.

Preparing the trebuchet, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Preparing the trebuchet, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Winding up the trebuchet, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Winding up the trebuchet, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Almost finished winding the trebuchet, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Almost finished winding the trebuchet, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Wait for iiiiit, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Wait for iiiiit, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

The trebuchet has been fired! Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

The trebuchet has been fired! Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

The swinging trebuchet, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

The swinging trebuchet, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

The wildly swinging rope of the trebuchet, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

The wildly swinging rope of the trebuchet, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

Apart from the fact that it was fun to see something hurling through the air (and hitting a little wooden rampart on the hill), it was really interesting to see how time consuming the whole process was.  It did make me wonder how fast they could go if they were in a battle, although since the rope swung wildly for at least 10 seconds after being fired, I would have thought pulling it back in for action too fast would have been dangerous.

…please click here for Part Two…

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