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Matchlock 8th September 2014 09:57 PM

The Dresden MONK'S GUN - a MYTH Revisited, and Finally CORRECTLY DATED: ca. 1525-30!
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This is about a real myth of weaponry, the famous so-called Monk's Gun, which, according to the formal, stylistic and technical criteria set up by the author, should be correctly dated "ca. 1525-30", and was almost certainly made in Nuremberg or Augsburg.

Actually, the
Monk's Gun is a combination of a tubular padlock and a firerarm activated by friction, when the rear ring-shaped bolt is pulled; with a usual padlock, that bolt would, of course, be a key with a threaded haft.
It is preserved in The Saxon Royal Collections, which is the Rüstkammer in Dresden.

Attached, please
find photos of the famous so-called Monk's Gun, which, according to the formal, stylistic and technical criteria set up by the author, should be correctly dated "ca. 1525-30", and was almost certainly made in Nuremberg or Augsburg.
Up to this day, various arms experts have suggested a very wide time line of dating the Monk's Gun, from "ca. 1450-1550"
(Claude Blair: "Further Notes on the Origins of the Wheellock", in: Robert Held (ed.): Arms and Armour Annual. December 1973, pp. 28-47, esp. 42ff.);
see second attachment showing the illustration on p. 44

until "before 1667, probably around 1600"
(Maus I. Rattinger);
see top attachment in my follower post.

Dating that item on the basis of the criteria defined and set up by the author for the first time, the Monk's Gun should finally stop being a "riddle" to experts of both Late Gothic/Early Renaissance ironworks and firearms.

What seems to be "Gothic script" at first glance, is actually stylized letters making no sense - they are nothing but mere decoration, reminding the spectator of the past period of the Middle Ages.

The petiolated trefoil ornament
(German: gestielter Dreipass) struck as three dots and a slightly curved line, is the ultimate stylized simplification of a what originally was a bunch of grapes, retaining their stalk.
Please cf. Marcus's thread:
especially my posts #7 through 9.

And this one, by the author:

The finely made wrought-iron, blued barrel is round throughout and two-staged, with the rear section (German: Hinterstück) longer than the forward. Two-staged round barrels are hardly known to appear before the late 1530's. Up to then, the ones made of wrought iron were usually three-staged from ca. 1512-15, while cast-copper alloy barrels (brass, or bronze) for wall guns and even larger pieces were often four- or five-staged, from ca. 1515 to ca. 1530.
The earliest two matchlock arquebuses known are dated 1539 on the barrel
, and both bear the same Nuremberg workshop mark struck two times, two crossed arrows in a shield; the limewood stock of one of these matchlock arquebuses from the same series additionally shows the Nuremberg proof mark N behind the barrel tang.

The latter gun is in The Michael Collection:

The forward section (German: Vorderstück) of the Monk's Gun is definitely elongated already, a stylistic criterion for dating that shows up on larger pieces first, and from 1522 onward. Two cast-bronze falconet barrels that were founded, and signed, by Endres Pegnitzer the Elder, Nuremberg, are preserved in the collections of the Museum at Schloss Heidecksburg, Rudolstadt, Thuringia; they came from the former arsenal of the Princes of Schwarzburg-Leutenberg, are dated 1522, with the date cast in high relief, and finely contoured with the chisel.
This section is separated from the rear by accentuated, filed moldings.
See author's photos, attached to follower post #7.

As the author has stated before, the Early Renaissance period, which put an end to the Medieval Times, and, by circa 1500, marked the sunburst of the Modern Age, was characterized by a completely new way of thinking. Man started exploring literally everything: his environments, the world, far-off continents, the sky and planets above him.

Revolutionary thoughts of freedom went together with an importance, and self-confidence, of all artisans and craftsmen alike, and
hitherto unknown - including the men of war. For the first time ever, the little ones did count as well, not just the nobility. When it all came down, kings and knights were actually nothing, had it not been for the peasants, skilled soldiers, and craftsmen.
The self-established Landsknechts/mercenaries were free-lancers, fighting for who would offer the best pay, and booty. Most of them were still loyal to a certain warlord, though - but now, the choice was theirs, and that made all the diffence.

And it was the age of geniuses like Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer - and, among others, the smiths of weapons. Starting out from Italy, the Renaissance triggered a widely based new way of cultural, philosophic and political thinking, at the same time giving birth to brilliant ideas that lead to mechanical inventions like the use of screws and springs on objects, especially the first clocks in Nuremberg - and, of course, the closey related wheellock.

Nails got threaded,
a central slot to the head - and became screws.
By the late 15th century, we begin to find iron nails that show a number of deliberately punched sharp and slanted nicks - obviously meant to make
a tighter fit in the wood at first, but very soon, these slanted nicks got connected by filing, and the idea of the thread known since Ancient Times, got re-enlivened by the Renaissance, and the screw was invented.
Very soon, former rivets started getting replaced by screws, and in iron plates as well. They now allowed delicate adjustments to movable parts, e.g. mechanical breast plates for tournament (German: Stechzeuge), and made repairs much easier to accomplish.

A new profession was born: the mechanically skilled locksmith, who, from now on, only wrought delicate and ingenuous actions.

The Renaissance period was also the age of the ludo globi:

Mankind started detecting, and playing with, everything nature provided, and the human mind could think of. As nobody wished to carry more different items along than necessary, the respective functions of separate objects were now preferrably combined in one single item, uniting them all - even up to a level of creating things quite impractical for everyday use,
like three- and four-barreled firing maces:

- and the Monk's Gun.

Also attached, find images of a large tubular and tapering padlock formerly in the author's collection, and also made in Nuremberg, for a heavy chest, at the very same time, ca. 1525-30.
Further, there is a source of contemporary illustration, an engraving dated 1533, and depicting two padlocks of exactly the same tapering form, securing
a large money chest.
The padlock is illustrated in:

Michael Trömner: Behältnisse für Kostbares 1500-1700. Verden, 2005, pp. 82f. and 86.

Furthermore attached are photos of similar padlocks, in the collections of the Joanneum in Graz, Styria, Austria.

Michael Trömner
Rebenstr. 9
D-93326 Abensberg
Lower Bavaria, Germany
  • Self-established Academic Medievalist
  • Graduated from Regensburg University in 1982
  • Stipendiary recipient and member of the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes, Bonn
  • Author of BEHÄLTNISSE FÜR KOSTBARES 1500-1700, 2005
  • M. of the Arms & Armour Society, London since 1991
  • M. of the Gesellschaft für Historische Waffen- und Kostümkunde e.V., Berlin since 1987
  • Expertises in European weapons, ironworks, and furniture of the 14th through 17th centuries
  • Preservation and academic documentation of museum collections

Matchlock 9th September 2014 02:54 AM

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I found these sectional drawings somewhere on the web about 10 to 12 years ago, but unfortunately lost the data of their source in the meantime.

I do remember the person being Swiss, though.


Matchlock 9th September 2014 03:16 AM

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- The Monk's Gun, ca. 1525-30, in the Rüstkammer, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden

- The rounded conical/tapering Nuremberg padlock, ca. 1525-30, formerly in the author's collection

- Two conical padlocks and one of ealier rectangular shape, securing a huge money chest; woodcut, dated 1530;

- Two rounded and conical/tapering padlocks, securing an ammuniton chest in an arsenal of Maximilian when King at that time, ca. 1510;
August Essenwein: Quellen zur Geschichte der Feuerwaffen: facsimilierte Nachbildungen alter Originalzeichnungen, Miniaturen, Holzschnitte und Kupferstiche. Leipzig, 1877.


Matchlock 9th September 2014 03:29 AM

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- Another detailed view of two rounded and conical/tapering padlocks, plus a rectangular, all securing a heavy oaken iron-mounted ammuniton chest in a Maximilian arsenal, ca. 1500; from Essenwein: Quellen ...

- A very similar rounded and conical padlock, ca. 1530, in the Joanneum, Graz

- The Monk's Gun, in the Rüstkammer, Dresden

- An later type of a padlock, ca. 1550-1600, manufactured in Styria, in the Joanneum, Graz


Marcus den toom 9th September 2014 08:39 AM

A great subject as always Michl,

But i have some questions :D ;)

Are there any contemporary writtings about this "monk's gun" ? The wheel lock mechanism has been written about in that time, just as the matchlock mechanism?
Is the monk's gun in fact a working mechanism and if so why wouldn't have been further explored? There are less moving parts than on a wheel lock mechanism and it should't have been to hard to add a (coil) spring with release mechanism. Just as in the more modern guns, with the bolt action etc.

And why is it called the monk his gun (monk's gun)? Is this also due to some juicy legend? :o

Matchlock 9th September 2014 12:26 PM

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These seem to be the the earliest known dated Nuremberg barrels to feature an elongated round muzzle section (German: Mündungskopf): a pair of Nuremberg cast-bronze falconet barrels founded, signed by Endres Pegnitzer the Elder (E.P.G.M.), and dated 1522 - cf. Heinrich Müller: Deutsche Bronzegeschützrohre 1400-1750. Ost-Berlin, 1968; pp. 63, 68, ill.#46-48; p. 69, ill.#57-58; p. 74, ill.#106-107; and p. 105-106.
They are preserved in the Museum at Schloss Heidecksburg, Rudolstadt, Thuringia - together with a third piece bearing the same date, but its muzzle section still showing the older Nuremberg style of ca. 1500-15, for being shorter and still octagonal, though following a long rounded forward section (German: Vorderstück). Notwithstanding that earliest Renaissance taste, this barrel can be identified to have been made after ca. 1520 because of its muzzle; it is pronouncedly beveled, instead of being flat, like the muzzles used to look before the end of the second decade of the 16th century. That beveled muzzle seems to have been kept up to the 1530's, at least with arquebus barrels, whether consisting of a copper alloy like brass or bronze, or of wrought iron.
See scan attached, from Müller's Bronzegeschützrohre ... , p. 69;
and author's photos, taken 9 October 2000.

For comparison: The muzzle sections of earlier cannon barrels are notably shorter:
Der Drach, founded by Jerg von Gunten, also known as Jörg von Guntheim, and dated 1514, shows a short, reinforced and octagonal shaped muzzle section, still denoting the influence of the Late Gothic taste of style (Historisches Museum Basel, Switzerland, 1874.94; it came from the former Basel Arsenal.
See author's photos attached, taken 5 August 1992.

Michael Trömner

Matchlock 9th September 2014 02:33 PM

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Originally Posted by Marcus den toom
A great subject as always Michl,

But i have some questions :D ;)

Are there any contemporary writtings about this "monk's gun" ? The wheel lock mechanism has been written about in that time, just as the matchlock mechanism?

Not to my knowledge, Marcus; as far as I know it only entered the Royal Saxon Armories, respectively their Kunst- und Wunderkammer ( ... ), in as late as 1667, and is still dated ca. 1600 to 1667 by their experts.

Is the monk's gun in fact a working mechanism and if so why wouldn't have been further explored? There are less moving parts than on a wheel lock mechanism and it should't have been to hard to add a (coil) spring with release mechanism. Just as in the more modern guns, with the bolt action etc.

The curators at the Dresden Armory (Rüstkammer) are known to be extremely strict; not even fellow curators from other museums are allowed to even touch their objects. So I cannot really imagine that anybody has ever dared to try and lay his hands on the Monk's Gun, let alone test its action, for at least about a century.

I reckon though that it works on the same principle as da Vinci's mechanical tinderlighter; these objects of everyday household use most probably kept being made much the same, until the mid-16th century.

And why is it called the monk his gun (monk's gun)? Is this also due to some juicy legend? :o

I do not know for sure but I guess that strange name has to do with Medieval monks. In the 14th through the 16th centuries, abbeys and orders were known to be cultural and intellectual centers, including the writing, copying, and illuminating of precious, because singular, manuscripts.
Before the late 15th century, and the invention of printing, all books were manuscripts. Most of them were written in Latin, for this was the international language of all academic communication, and of teaching at universities, regardless of the language of the respective country. In the 14th century, many kings could hardly read or write; all that was donefor them by learned secretaries, professional writers - or by monks in abbeys.
Therefore, all things relating to science, academic education, or philosophy, were commonly connected with monks. It was not just theology that was covered by their expertise - although the Roman Catholic Church prevailed in all everyday matters, just by the sheer power religion wielded over all people, including the nobility, simply by threatening that they would be damned and go to hell and its devils for all eternity if they did not follow the words of the Holy Bible, the Pope, and the clergy.
Only the wealthy were granted the priviledge to buy themselves free of all their sins, even the ones they would commit in the future; this was officially called the sale of indulges (German: Ablasshandel).

Almost everything that was written and taught was in Latin, including the Mass, so the common peope would not understand a single word, and were very superstitious as well. They must have got the impression of evil magic powers and secret hidden knowledge behind it all - in short: the devil, the fiend. Of course, monks fitted that scheme perfectly. Most orders were clad in black or brown, and they held all the knowledge. Serious sciences such as chemistry did not yet exist; it was all alchemistry, magic, and could only come from the devil.

And then, some fine day in the early 1300's, a completely knew and frightening sound rang out over North Western Europ; it was for the first time that anybody could remember such a noise: the sudden bang of a black dust-like substance that would explode with a bolt of orange fire, just by a tiny spark - and leave the smell of sulphur in the air.

For ages, both superstition and poular belief used to link things like the black, fire, sulphur, and magic with the devil, deep down in hell. Of course, black powder was characteristic of combining all those facts. The notorious German monk called der Schwarze Berthold (Black Berthold) actually never existed, but in England there was a monk named Roger Bacon, who is said to have been the first to write down the exact mixture of coal, saltpeter, and sulphur to create gun powder in the late 13th century:

Bacon is often considered the first European to describe a mixture containing the essential ingredients of gunpowder. Based on two passages from Bacon's Opus Majus and Opus Tertium, extensively analysed by J. R. Partington, several scholars cited by Joseph Needham concluded that Bacon had most likely witnessed at least one demonstration of Chinese firecrackers, possibly obtained with the intermediation of other Franciscans, like his friend William of Rubruck, who had visited the Mongols.[52][59] The most telling passage reads: "We have an example of these things (that act on the senses) in [the sound and fire of] that children's toy which is made in many [diverse] parts of the world; i.e. a device no bigger than one's thumb. From the violence of that salt called saltpetre [together with sulphur and willow charcoal, combined into a powder] so horrible a sound is made by the bursting of a thing so small, no more than a bit of parchment [containing it], that we find [the ear assaulted by a noise] exceeding the roar of strong thunder, and a flash brighter than the most brilliant lightning."[52] More controversial are the claims originating with Royal Artillery colonel Henry William Lovett Hime (at the beginning of the 20th century) that a cryptogram existed in Bacon's Epistola, giving the ratio of ingredients of the mixture. These were published, among other places, in the 1911 edition of Encyclopædia Britannica.[60] An early critic of this claim was Lynn Thorndike, starting with a letter in the 1915 edition of the journal Science,[61] and repeated in several books of his. M. M. Pattison Muir also expressed his doubts on Hime's theory, and they were echoed by John Maxson Stillman.[62] Robert Steele[63] and George Sarton also joined the critics.[64] Needham concurred with these earlier critics in their opinion that the additional passage does not originate with Bacon.[52] In any case, the proportions claimed to have been deciphered (7:5:5 saltpetre:charcoal:sulfur) are not even useful for stuffing firecrackers, burning slowly while producing mostly smoke, and failing to ignite inside a gun barrel.[65] The ~41% nitrate content is too low to have explosive properties.[66]

Attached find an engraving of 1617, of Roger Bacon conducting an experiment, as well as the formula of gun powder he wrote down before he died in either 1292, or two years later.
There is also a 16th ! century English drawing of devils, helping men make gun powder and firearms.


Raf 23rd September 2014 08:31 AM

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The Monks Gun.

Sorry Michael. I don’t think we have quite got to the bottom of this one.
It seems unlikely that the gun currently in the Russtkammer is the legendary Monks Gun beloved by early writers on firearms history.

Quoting from Ellacott (Guns . Methuen and Co 1955.)

There once lay in Dresden Museum a hand– gun of the early sixteenth century eleven inches long, 5 inches bore ( ! ) A long serrated bar lay in a square casing above the priming pan, and above the bar was a pivoted serpentine holding in its jaws a brittle yellow mineral then called fools gold. When the pyrites was pressed down upon the serrated bar. And the bar drawn sharply backwards, a shower of sparks was rasped into the priming pan. For many years this little weapon was called the monks gun on the assumption that the German monk Berthold Swartze had made it in 1320.

Swartze being the apocryphal inventor of gunpowder. The author attaches his own drawing of the gun which we assume was based on an illustration from some antiquarian source . The gun as illustrated by Ellacot looks entirely implausible as a hand held firearm and if it wasn’t for what looks like a belt hook we might suggest it was the breech from a breech loading cannon . Since we cant be sure whether the seventeenth century inventory relates to the gun illustrated or the Russfkhammer gun one implication is the later might be a historiscistic re creation of the missing original perhaps re using a genuinely old barrel

I personally have doubts as to whether it, or any other hand operated rasp ignition lock would have actually worked. A typical wheelock has a wheel speed of around 1000 feet per second. equivalent to 60 miles an hour. Therefore no matter how smartly the bar was jerked backwards it seems unlikely that it would achieve sufficient speed to raise a spark. However it’s a simple idea and some might have believed that it would. The same principle was successfully developed in quadrant locks (Tower; X11-1067. Dated1619) where the wheel is replaced by a quadrant operated by a strong spring, achieving the same effect as a wheel lock but without the need for a spanner. Blair quotes Thierbach who illustrates a rasp lock operated by a spiral spring; of the kind envisaged by Marcus and also a manually operated rasp lock for a cannon.

Raf 25th September 2014 08:21 AM

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Anybody noticed that there are in fact two Monks guns up for discussion here ? So somebody must have made a fairly accurate copy of the Russkhamer gun , presumably to test it to see whether it worked . Anybody know the source of the lower picture ?

batjka 25th September 2014 12:32 PM

This is a really fascinating mechanism! I wish one was available for testing. Although I doubt the artisans would have spent all that effort to produce a non-working item.

The accuracy of this gun would be dismal due to the jerking of the barrel as the rasp was being pulled out. But it's probably OK for contact ranges.

Thank you for posting this and making people aware of this gun.

Raf 2nd October 2014 07:44 AM

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The Monks Gun myth Revisited... Part 2

Tracked down the author of the reconstruction. His name is Peter H Kunz who specialises in re creating ( and testing ? ) historic firearms . Link to his site is wwwfirearmch
So now we have the uncontravertable photographic evidence that the thing actually works .

Or do we ?

Matchlock 3rd October 2014 09:01 AM

Originally Posted by Raf
The Monks Gun myth Revisited... Part 2

Tracked down the author of the reconstruction. His name is Peter H Kunz who specialises in re creating ( and testing ? ) historic firearms . Link to his site is wwwfirearmch
So now we have the uncontravertable photographic evidence that the thing actually works .

Or do we ?

Hi Raf,

So you succeeded in identifying Mr. Kunze - great!

I now remember his name from about 10 years ago.

I will repy to your posts soon.


Raf 3rd October 2014 09:34 AM

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Now that the digital smoke has cleared here is another interpretation as engraved for Greeners The Gun and its Development 1910.

Matchlock 4th October 2014 07:20 AM

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Hi Raf,

I guess the problem is definitely sorted out.

When it is about facts, I basically never rely on just a sketch, a line drawing, plus some assertions, from what side ever.
Not in the 1950's, that is, when Elllacott published his thesis.

Cameras had been invented more than 100 years before, and it is also a fact that he could have written a letter, or just rung up the staff of the Dresden Museum, requiring additional photos, and asking their opinion on the item.
So why didn't he? What actually made him phantasize and woolgather on strange theories, rumors and hearsayings.

The author cannot accept such a method completely contradictory to basic logical thinking and mental sanity - let alone any academic approach based on humanics and/or science.

What is the outcome?
The author's theses have been proven right. Even the close range he suggested for assigning a definite date of production for the so-called Monk's gun is very close to the timeline of origin speculated by Ellacott, although "ca. 1510-15" would be a bit too early, even for the stylistic feature Ellacott's line drawing shos, though definitely exaggerated: the clear formal staging of the barrel, with the filed moldings, as well as the already elongated and slightly swamped muzzle, both defining the timeline of origin given by the author of this thread, and post: ca. 1525-40.
Ellacott, on the contrary, like all weapons experts so far, was not able to explain the reason for the period of time he was supposing.

More material soon to be attached, including closely related mechanic ironwork like padlocks and dated cranequins, will show that the punched decoration identified and defined first by the author is found only on objects not only assigned to, but actually dated within, that narrow span of ca. 15 years.
It is all about facts.
One of these facts is that the author has demonstrated that the defining stylistic criteria set up by him are exact, and transferable to other period objects of arts and crafts alike, proving their doubtless reliability.

With regard to the
ludo globi pointed out by the author, the Monk's "Gun", in all probability, was never actually meant to be a gun. This is the reason why the autor chose to term it the so-called Monk's Gun and, from the beginning, and has put the name set on that item in inverted commas, between quotes.
Cusanus, in Rome in 1463, at the dawn of the Renaissance age in Italy,
wrote a dialogue. It started
"... with Cusanus resting after having played a newly invented ball game. "No honest game is entirely lacking in the capacity to instruct." observes Cusanus. Having compared the motion of the misbalanced ball used in the game to the soul of man, set in motion by god, he moves on to discuss a game he had been toying with:
I thought to invent a game of knowledge, I considered how it should be done. Next I defined it, making it as you see."


The so-called Monk's gun was an ingenious lockmakers' mechanical joke represented by a master piece of ironwork (German: Scherzgefäß).
By its outer perception, and with the upcoming of new techniques like the watch and the wheellock, both acting on the fundamental invention of mankind, the wheel, it perfectly met the Renaissance taste, conveying the external impression of a firearm.

It may even never have been used as a gun but also as a tinder lighter, construed both beautifully and ingeniously, and for amusement on the ceremonial level of the courtly society. Its fine state of condition denotes that it ordered, and made, for a stunning
Renaissance Cabinet of Arts and Curiosities (German: Kunst- und Wunderkammer): an object of wonder, joy and play, and for aristocrats to delight in.

At the same time, though, it represents what the mechanical ideas at the break of the Modern Age around 1500 were all about, and what, as all profound thinking, doubtlessly generated a byproduct.In this instance, it was the wheel applied for ignition:
the flint or pyrite ignited sparks that would generate fire, for easy and practical everday use.
It was a sophisticated object of arts and crafts alike,
combining various mechanical refinement all of which represented the state of both art and "high tech" of ca. 1525-50:
those of a gun, a padlock, and a tinder lighter.
In each case it was a beautiful, refined and thrilling plaything, and certainly meant to be sort of a riddle from the beginning - by the nobleman who ordered it, and the locksmith who wrought it.

The flint had been in use for milions of years. The century of the Renaissance period was the interval age of the pyrite, also used in both wheel- and snaphaunce locks - before the (flint-)Stone Age was to take over once more, by the early 17th century, and carry on until the 21st.

For more than a decade, the author has knowlegde, and photos, of the only known actually surviving mechanical pyrite-ignited tinder lighter; it is of wrought iron throughout,
rock solid, fully working and apt for everyday use - which the so-called Monk's Gun was definitely not. Still it is tiny enough to be covered by a hand - and its Late Gothic/Early Germanic Renaissance decoration, obvious though spare it is, just as that on the so-called Monks' gun and on both door- and padlocks, bears proof of its being its contemporary, and was wrought by a lock maker.
It will definitely enter The Michael Trömner Collection soon, as the ultimate sensation. The pact is sealed.


Matchlock 4th October 2014 04:43 PM

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When identifying and dating guns, the basic fact has to be considered that their general shape and form, as well as their decoration, spare though it may be, especially on arsenal arms, reflects the period sense of style; this relates to all arts and crafts alike.

Around 1500, a new Italian style had arrived in the North Alpine German regions, to soon prevail over the older. A change of style does not happen at a sudden blow. In spite of the fact that they became obsolete quite soon, within about three decades, from ca. 1490 to 1520, the fundamental Late Gothic ornaments and forms lived on, for a very long time. They were adopted and carried on, but they also became modified, and more refined.
Nevertheless, the Gothic basics never actually never vanished. E.g., the essential general Gothic sense of style was represented, most of all, by the edged and sided hexagonal or octagonal columns in ecclastical architecture. In the course of the 13th and 14th centuries, beveled vertical ribs were added, and the upper end of the column had to be reinforced - in order to guarantee a sold joint with the vault. It was the rules of static stability that required them to start from a mighty base below, and end up in a massive capital, and in lofty pointed steeples, high above.

In the course of 300 years, from ca. 1200 to 1500, they became more delicate and higher, with their ultimate stylistic perfection achieved by ca. 1480-90.

Their edged hexagonal or octagonal overall appearance was also reflected by the appearance of period barrels.

Cf. author's threads:

Therefore, the study of the fundamental rules and outlines of art history is an indispensable prerequisite. When it comes down to identifying an early firearm barrel, and assigning a narrow span of time to its date of manufacture, ithe best thing is to compare it with other handcrafted items made of the same material. The reason being that until the 1st half of the 16th century, the craftsmen or workshops that made them all were basically the same. Locksmiths must have been the very first master specialists that were asked to make a mechanic action like tinderlock or a matchlock. For both, the basic material was the same: wrought iron, and sometimes cast
copper alloy (brass or bronze) - and so were the principles of the respective action. It was all based on tension, meaning springs. For the lock action of a Gothic crossbow, an leaf spring made of horn would do; for the igniting action on a firearm, leaf springs had to get wrought and left to cool, before hammering them to elasticity and resilient power with a few blows. What sounds unbelievable to a 21st century engineer who would resort to the very best quuality of steel, worked out perfectly fine for hundreds of years, and with the low-carbonite iron of those times.

In The Michael Trömner Collection, there are several 16th c. tinder- and matchlocks, including the earliest recorded of their kind, which he acquired from excavations. Two of them were dug up and salvaged from fortified places, and from battlegrounds of ca. 1512 to 1530 - with the tinderholders still cocked, and the leaf springs under tension, for almost half a millennium.
After soaking them in olive oil for weeks, and by a few cautious blows of the hammer, they got off - and released. They still are in perfectly working order - tiny and delicate iron leafs showing all the traces of the hammer that gave them tension.

In the late 15th c., the Renaissance style was first adopted by the City of Nuremberg, which, for centuries, had been the leading market place for trade of all kinds, from spices and cloth to items of arts and crafts. Around 1500, it soon became the style defining and guiding center of development as well of top quality.

As far as the so-called Monk's Gun is concerned, the combined Late Gothic and Early Renaissance main symbolic language is confined to three characteristic patterns of art history which all went down into all handcrafted items:
- the sectioning (German: Abstufungen) of columns, padlocks and gun barrels, as discussed above;
- the running vine pattern (German: Weinlaubranke), unfolding like serpents or flames, and terminating in three bunches of grapes (German: Trauben) each;
- the most simplified and reduced form of a bunch of grapes, the trefoil (German: Trifoliendekor or Dreipass)
Common to all of them is the cypher three.

In the two earliest decades of the 16th c., they were profusely added to fine products of craftsmanship ordered by important wealthy persons.
From the 1520's to the 1550's, they were widely used to decorate all sorts of everyday items. Mainly, however, they were confined to products of metalworks and wood. Consequently, with every craftsman applying them to his product, they soon lost their original rich splendor. By the second half of the 1520's, they are mostly found reduced to their fundamental guiding principle: the trefoil, representing the symbolic cypher three. Metalworks, especially iron, and wood are commonly found struck with these simplified ornaments which are just three dots, or circles by now.
By the mid 1530's, they begin to vanish, along with the Early Renaissance tradition to divide barrels in three sections (cast copper alloy barrels often feature , . Two highly important Nuremberg made Lanndsknecht matchlock arquebuses, the wrought iron barrels double-struck with the well-known workshop mark of "The Master of the Crossed Arrows", as the author has come to call him, and the date 1539. They are the oldest known dated gun barrels to have lost their center section (German: Mittelstück); only the long and pronouncedly swamped muzzle section (German: Mündungskopf) is still divided from the rear or breech section (German: Hinterstück) by filed grooves.
One of them is preserved in the collections of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nürnberg (GNM), inv.-no. W 494), the other is in The Michael Trömner Collection.

Around 1540, Nuremberg workshops seem to have completely stopped the sectioning of barrels; they now are octagonal throughout, quite plain and notably swamped at both ends. This is also the period of economic depression for the fine but expensive Nuremberg wrought iron barrels and locks. Founding barrels of copper alloy has almost come to a standstill, and many workshops leave the city, to go east.
This is the beginning of the uprising of Suhl. Since at least the late 1520's, the small Thuringian town has detracted Nuremberg barrelsmiths. Suhl is on its way to become the new and prevailing center of mass production of barrels, locks and complete guns, on a scale hitherto unknown
- for centuries to come, and for much less pay than Nuremberg workshops.
In 1564, the Suhl proof is officially defined as a guarantee of quality and reliability, and the proof marks to be struck are set up: the name of the town, SVL, and the hen, representing the district of Hennegau.

Since the 1550's
, Nuremberg, still the stylistic leader, has given up striking even the most simplified traces of the trefoil ornament. The symbol of 3 lives on though, until ca. 1600 but in a different decoration.

Attachments, appearing in order:


- two fine tubular tapering padlocks, Nuremberg, ca. 1525-35 (German private collections)

- three fine Nuremberg made cranequins, dated 1532, 1540 and 1545
respectively, and all struck with the workshop mark of "The Master of the Crossed Arrows"; their pediculated trefoliate decoration, depicting the stylized grape bunches retaining their stalks (German: gestielter Dreipass), corresponds exactly to that on the Monk's Gun (German private collection, author's photos)

Attachments to this post, from top:

- details of the decoration on the cranequin dated 1545; the forward section of the ratched bar is additionally punched with a human hand, a magic sign to fend off evil (aportropaiaton); author's photos

- detail of etching on the blade of a hunting sword: running vine pattern; ca.1535-40 (Odescalchi Collection Rome)

- trefoil piecrcings in Gothic architecture

Contemporary historical sources of illustration:

- sword with trefoliate pommel; detail of a painting by Michael Pacher, ca. 1465-70

- a similar sword; detail of a painting of St. Martin; Museum Mühlheim

- key with trefoliate grip, 16th century

- a Late Gothic/Early Renaissance door lock, Southern Germany or alpine regions, the plate retaining its original minium (red lead) paint, the riveted decoration retaining its original fire-tinned surface; ca. 1500 (private collection)

Matchlock 4th October 2014 04:44 PM

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Matchlock 4th October 2014 04:45 PM

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Matchlock 4th October 2014 05:29 PM

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Attachments to post 16,
from top:

- a large
early Renaissance door lock for a portal, Bavaria, dated 1527 (author's collection); please note the profusely curved edge and the zoomorphic ornament in the right corner representing a serpent.
In Late Gothic and Remaissance art, ornaments shaped like serpents or dragons had an apotropaic meaning. Additionally, their winding corresponds to exactly the same sense of style as the running vine pattern. On the barrel of a firearm made between the 2nd half of the 15th c. and the early 17th c., and sometimes on the stock of 16th to early 17 th gun, this decoration denotes the psychologic and magic impression of a sea monster or a dragon breathing fire.

From the aspect of art history, these flames are based on the same sense of style as the running vine pattern and the serpent.

Matchlock 4th October 2014 05:30 PM

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Matchlock 4th October 2014 08:14 PM

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Matchlock 4th October 2014 08:15 PM

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Matchlock 4th October 2014 11:36 PM

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Matchlock 4th October 2014 11:38 PM

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Matchlock 5th October 2014 12:02 AM

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Matchlock 5th October 2014 01:22 AM


Raf 7th October 2014 10:05 AM

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The real mystery of the monk’s gun is why and how it became associated with the venerable Berthold Schwartz in the first place. The mythical Schwartz is by tradition associated not with the invention of gunpowder per se but specifically with its application to shooting in guns. Hence the often reproduced frontispiece to Furtenbach’s School of the Art of Gunnery of 1643 which depicts his moment of pyrotechnic revelation. Furtenbachs fanciful illustration at least proves that by the mid seventeenth century there was already an academic curiosity about how firearms were invented. Which is also about the time in which the mysterious Monks gun makes its appearance in the Rustkammer inventory. The Ducal Armory, later to become the Rustskammer, formed the foundation for what must be one of the earliest collections of arms and armor. The fist inventory of 1547 lists nearly 1500 weapons and by 1697 this had been extended to include collections of finely decorated firearms

The reason for the wide date range proposed for the Dresden gun is that if it could be ascribed to a date earlier than say 1500 it would help to explain the development of the Wheelock, which is Blair’s hypothesis. Although we are now agreed that rasp ignition in the form shown in the Dresden gun probably would not have worked, the principal is sound and it is not difficult to imagine how it could have been made to work using very simple technology. For example if the friction bar was attached to a lanyard perhaps vigorously yanked by an assistant using a full arm movement , amplified by the elasticity of the lanyard acting as a sort of spring to momentarily store and release energy, would in my view generate frictional speed sufficient to raise a spark. Since such a device wasn’t really practical for a hand held firearm this provided the impetus for ingenious minds to develop the Wheelock.

Therefore Michaels dating of the barrel of the Dresden gun of around 1525 / 30, which I am sure is correct, raises something of a problem. This places it in a period where the Wheelock was being actively developed and one would have thought the principles of friction ignition were sufficiently well understood to know that the Dresden gun was unlikely to work. However it is I suppose possible that a dilettante with a creative interest in firearms appalled by the cost and complexity of the Wheelock may have thought he had a simple solution and commissioned a gunsmith to make a pistol according to his design. However this would not explain its traditional association with the eponymous Berthold.

It is probably simply co incidence but the objects used to give fire to Bertolds exploding mortar looks to me very much like a rasp and pyrite’s rather than the conventional hand held flint and steel which one might expect. The action of creating fire with pyrites rather than flint and steel is a bit more complicated. Iron pyrite is classified as an iron sulfide crystalline mineral. Chemically it is FeS2. Like steel, when tiny pieces are dislodged by a blow, they react with oxygen in the air to produce a hot spark. Those tiny pieces of iron are oxidized extremely rapidly. This exothermic reaction produces heat adequate to ignite a fire. Any hard stone can be used to detach these spark producing particles, So you can strike fire from the pyrites itself, or more effectively the denser nodular form known as marcasite, using a flint . But as we also know pyrites doesn’t like being bashed as it s quite friable. Hence striking pyrites with steel requires a longer rasping action as in the illustration. We also know you can substitute a flint for the pyrites in a Wheelock, but the sparks are relatively feebly and quickly damage the wheel. Which raises the interesting question of whether the sparks in a pyrites ignition firearm result entirely from particles of steel stripped from the wheel, or whether some of these are generated from the pyrites itself.

Quoting from Furtebach;

See here what time and nature have brought to day through ingenious men the art of shooting in guns has been created out of the nature of fire and vapors of nature.

In choosing to illustrate and describe his allegory of the creation of firearms in this way is Furtenbach , who is after all historically much closer to the event than we are, crediting Friar Berthold not only with the discovery of the propellant potential of gunpowder but the means to give fire to it using rasp and pyrites?
Hence a rasp ignition firearm being described as the ‘ Monks gun ‘.

Spiridonov 7th December 2016 02:37 PM

Has anyone seen another photo of monk's gun? For example bottom view photo. Who knows how the lock was attached? Soldering or screws?

Spiridonov 8th October 2017 08:36 PM
The monk's gun was found by an amateur archeologist

fernando 9th October 2017 05:27 PM

Well, Alexander; do you think this movie was really shot while the finding took place, or a simulation of what must have happened ?

Spiridonov 9th October 2017 06:14 PM

Originally Posted by fernando
Well, Alexander; do you think this movie was really shot while the finding took place, or a simulation of what must have happened ?

Possibly simulation/ I don't know exactly

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