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Old 8th September 2014, 10:57 PM   #1
Matchlock
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Default The Dresden MONK'S GUN - a MYTH Revisited, and Finally CORRECTLY DATED: ca. 1525-30!



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:
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...il+bunch+grapes
especially my posts #7 through 9.

And this one, by the author:
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=18904


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:
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...+harquebus+1539


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:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_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:
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...el+mace+meyrick

- 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.


Best,
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






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Last edited by Matchlock : 9th September 2014 at 04:00 PM.
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Old 9th September 2014, 03:54 AM   #2
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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.


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Last edited by Matchlock : 9th September 2014 at 10:04 PM.
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Old 9th September 2014, 04:16 AM   #3
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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;
from:
August Essenwein: Quellen zur Geschichte der Feuerwaffen: facsimilierte Nachbildungen alter Originalzeichnungen, Miniaturen, Holzschnitte und Kupferstiche. Leipzig, 1877.



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Old 9th September 2014, 04:29 AM   #4
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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


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Old 9th September 2014, 09:39 AM   #5
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A great subject as always Michl,

But i have some questions

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?
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Old 9th September 2014, 01:26 PM   #6
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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, inv.no. 1874.94; it came from the former Basel Arsenal.
See author's photos attached, taken 5 August 1992.

Best,
Michael Trömner

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Old 9th September 2014, 03:33 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcus den toom
A great subject as always Michl,

But i have some questions

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?


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:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Bacon:


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.


Best,
Michl
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Last edited by Matchlock : 9th September 2014 at 10:10 PM.
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