I think I can assist in helping understand my friend Alexander: I'm sure with sacrilege he meant that the original load of powder was fired. If that were so indeed I would fully support his meaning.
Well, the photo shows the author and collector Merrill Lindsay (One Hundred Great Guns
), who died some 20 years ago. The photo is taken from his less known book The Lure of Guns
(1976). Unfortunately his own collection which was auctioned at Christie's revealed lots of failures due his not really experienced collector's eye.
Unforunately, the text does not refer to this photo, as often in his books. Lindsay bought that wrought iron barrel he is shown firing as an excavated find and I am sure he cleaned it very thoroughly as was his usage. In doing so I am absoutely sure he took out the original powder load. I once did the same with of my fine Munich haquebut barrel dated 1481 and have kept the load as kind of sacred ever since. Nevertheless, I tried to lit a small portion of it. Well, nothing happened. It was meal powder, of course. Not only had it gone wet and dried again many times of its 500 year history, its main substances had also become unmixed. So all it did was sparkle and bizz a litlle bit, but far from going up whoosh like a rocket.
To cut a long story short, I am far from believing that Lindsay used the original load for one reason or another. If we start from that presumption I think we should not call it a sacrilege - unless Alexander meant the fact of firing a 500 year old barrel. In that case I would say it is up to him how he feels about it.