Burgundy, 15th cent. (barrel), Basel, 16th cent. (carriage)
98.5 cm (barrel)
A large haul of jewels and weapons fell into the hands of the Swiss at the battles of Grandson and Murten against Charles the Bold of Burgundy in 1476. Included in this “Burgundian Booty” were some of the most advanced artillery pieces of the age. As an ally of the Swiss, Basel was granted a share of the spoils. Only a few of the items apportioned to it have survived. Among them is this small gun barrel made of bronze. It bears the coat of arms of Jean de Rosières, master gunsmith to Charles the Bold of Burgundy.
In the 16th century, the barrel was shortened, furnished with iron trunnions, and mounted on a naval gun carriage, despite its heritage status as part of the Burgundian Booty. After all, adapting and sometimes even recasting old weapons to keep pace with the latest technological advances was standard practice at the time. This cannon therefore remained in use – probably as part of the city’s defences at first. A 1709 inventory of Basel Armoury lists it as “a small metal piece on a naval gun carriage”. Later the decommissioned gun was used as an alarm signal on the tower of St. Martin's Church in Riehen. There it stood, alongside another small cannon (inv. 1905.4974) until 1888, when the commune of Riehen gave it to the city’s Medieval Collection. (GP)