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Cannon from the Burgundian spoils

Key data

Mechelen, dated 1474

Jean de Malines, Mechelen Cast bronze

length 255.5 cm, calibre 22.8 cm

Inv. 1874.95.


The Basle chronicler Johannes Knebel reports that on 14 March 1476 the Basle troops brought back from the battlefield at Grandson two large bombards with the Burgundian coat of arms. One was melted down about 1790, while the other has been preserved as being particularly precious. The barrel is cast in one piece and is the oldest dated gun barrel with trunnions. On the first section near the mouth, which is superbly made, the gunsmith gives his name in embossed lower case Gothic script: "iehan de malines ma fayt Ian MCCCCLXXIIII" (jean de Malines made me in the year 1474). On the second barrel section is the coat of arms of Charles the Bold, its former owner, and on each side of the coat of arms the insignia of the Golden Fleece. The invention of trunnions, which made aiming easier and improved accuracy, should probably be credited to the gun founder jean de Malines, who had been in the service of the Burgundian dukes since 1466. The cannon was among the most modern of its time; it was later depicted in the cannon book of Emperor Maximilian. An inscription formerly attached to it in the Basle Zeughaus read: "Burgund bin ich genandt / Brich Maur and Want" (The Burgundian they me call / Breaker of brick and wall).

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