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Old 31st July 2014, 12:42 PM   #4
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Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Bavaria, Germany - the center of 15th and 16th century gunmaking
Posts: 4,310

Hi Shakethetrees,

Don't let yourself get troubled.

Congratulations on the acquisition of what is doubtlessly a fine and very rare detached brass/bronze breech piece (chamber) from a breechloading wall gun, with its barrel mounted on a tripod or a wheeled carriage (German: Bockbüchse or Doppelhaken auf Bocklafette), and dating from the era of the Emperor Maximilian I, ca. 1500-10.

The barrel, originally cast together with a number of such interchangeable breech pieces, thus allowing rapid firing, was most certainly wrought at a Nuremberg or Tyrolean bronze foundry workshop which also specialized in church bells.

As a religious symbol, the cross on your detached breech piecewas cast in high relief integrally, and contoured by chiseling afterwards; the punched decoration of circles is characteristic of many wrought iron barrels and other items of ironworks or wood all made between ca. 1490 and 1530.

Following the three reworked images, I attached photos of a heavy wrought iron barrel of ca. 1480/90. Its top flat, too, shows the Late Gothic/Early Renaissance standard ornament of
punched circles. On my barrel, three of these circles are struck in line.
Actually, 3 has always been the most important of basic magic cyphers, in all cultures and from the earliest times. Its most common representation in Western European art history is the
Late Gothic/early Renaissance trefoil (German: Dreipass).

As I stated formerly, the trefoil ornament originally
derived from the shape of a bunch of grapes, being its most simplified and stylized representation, and contemporarily used by artisans of all arts and crafts alike - except when it came to illuminated manuscripts and illustrations in printed books. These arts, as well as paintings, engravings and woodcuts, to name just a few, usually depicted the real grapes, mostly within a running grapevine pattern.

As that

The Michael Trömner Collection

which I posted here earlier:

The general stout mug-like shape of this breech piece, as well as its rear (German: Bodenstück) and forward (German: Mündungskopf) bulged reinforcing sections, all account for a close and early dating of ca. 1st decade 16th century.

Please cf.
the dating criteria defined and set up for the first time ever by me:

What is most remarkable about your item is the fact that the touch hole got spiked
at some later date, with a wrought iron nail.
That simple way of rendering a cannon uselesss within seconds was a practice commonly applied in war - after the line of cannon
got overrun by the enemy's cavalry of infantry.

Spiking (German: das Zündloch (einer Kanone) vernageln) was also often employed as a means of repair to close a burned-out touch hole that allowed too much gass loss. The spiking done, a new and smaller touch hole could be either right struck while the nail red hot, or drilled.

In the case of your breech chamber, it seems that the gun it belonged to saw secondary use which as quite different from its original purpose: to receive, hold and eventually blow out a load of black powder, and a wooden muzzle plug, all of which would finally expel the ball ...

Attached find your photoshopped images, as well as some watercolors from the inventory books of the Maximilian arsenals, ca. 1502-1507, depicting brass/bronze barreled wall guns mounted on carriages, and served by two men each (German: Richt- und Feuerschütze).
One of them would aim the piece, and signal his companion when to ignite the priming powder on the pan with a red hot igniting iron (German: Loseisen); the latter had to be kept ready resting in a pot of charcoal all the time (German: Kohlebecken). Alternatively, a length of matchcord was used, consisting of twisted hemp (German: Luntenstrick) and clamped between the jaws of a forked stick.


Michael Trömner
Rebenstr. 9
D-93326 Abensberg
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
Member of, with more than 4.100 threads and posts since 2008
M. of the Arms & Armour Society, London since 1991
M. of the Gesellschaft für Historische Waffen- und Kostümkunde e.V., Berlin since 1987
Special expertises in European weapons, ironworks and furniture of the 14th through the 17th centuries

Preservation and scientific documentation of museum collections
Attached Images
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