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Early Medieval Cannon


It is thought that gunpowder was invented in China and found its way to Europe in the 13th Century. In the mid to late 13th Century gunpowder began to be used in cannons and handguns, and by the mid 14th Century they were in common use. By the end of the 14th Century both gunpowder, guns and cannon had greatly evolved and were an essential part of fortifications which were being modified to change arrow slits for gun loops.



The Chinese record the first use of gunpowder and was first invented in Europe by Roger Bacon in 1248, there is speculation that he may have had links with the moors of Spain who used gunpowder.

The optimum proportions of modern gunpowder are: Saltpetre (Potassium Nitrate) 74.64%, Sulphur 11.85%, Charcoal 13.51%




Artillery from the old French word atellier meaning, to arrange, and attillement meant apparatus or equipment.

Artillier, a builder of war machines, Etienne Boileau (c.1268)

Bombarde from the Greek bombos meaning a loud noise

Cannon from the latin canna meaning tube

Gun, gunne, gonne, the origin of the word is unclear and various ideas have been put forward that it comes from the French word magonnel (mangonneau), the english word engine, the old Norse word for war gunne, or a ladies name.

Petard, from the French Peter, to break wind, this is a gunpowder filled object that would be thrown, dropped or placed and set off with a fuse

Pots de Fer, French, pots of iron, early cannon were cast from bronze or copper

Walter Milemete 1326

Top "De Nobilitatibus, Sapientii et Prudentiis Regum", manuscript, by Walter de Milemete, 1326

Bottom: uncompleted drawing from Aristotle's "De Secretis Secretorum", manuscript, attributed to Milemete, 1326


Replica Cannon

Replica cannon based on the Loshult cannon found in Sweden dating from 1326. This cannon is in the Crecy Museum, Crecy, France, to represent the type of cannon that may have been used at the battle of Crecy in 1346.

Loshult Cannon Replica


Cannon in 14th Century Manuscripts

C14 Cannon

Siege of a castle, 14th Century manuscript

Froissart Cannon C14

Siege of a North African Town, Chronicles of Froissart 14th Century




Cannon Timeline

1st Century AD Chinese discover Saltpetre

AD 492 Chinese alchemical text describes Saltpetre as burning with a purple flame

9th Century Chinese invent gunpowder

1044 Chinese describe incendiary devices, (described in a copy made in the 1550's)

1132 Chinese mention Fire Lances

1221 Chinese mention cast iron bombs

1259 Chinese describe bamboo tubes and clay pellets

1248 Roger Bacon describes the formula of gunpowder

1248 Peter bishop of Lyon reported Moors used cannon, siege of Seville, Spain

1259 the city of Qingzhou, China is manufacturing 1-2,000 iron cased bombs per month

1259 City of Melilla in North Africa is /defended by cannon

1260 Chinese arsenal of Zhao Nanchong catches fire and explodes

1260 Battle of Ain Jalut where the Mamluk Egyptians use hand guns against the Mongols

1262 Siege of Niebla, Spain, where Moors use Cannon

1268 Roger Bacon describes the use of gunpowder in crackers

1274 Abu Yaqub Yusuf, uses cannon at the siege of Sijilmasa

1279 Mongols learn how to make gunpowder and when they conquer the Chinese

1280 Hasan Al-Rammah writes in Arabic the recipe for gunpowder

1280 Albertus Magnus describes a recipe for making flying fire and gunpowder

1280 arsenal in Weiyang, China catches fire and explodes killing hundreds

1280 Siege of Cordoba where gunpowder appears to have been used

1281 Archaeological finds and documentary evidence indicate Mongol invasion fleet of Japan used grenades

1288 bronze handgun found in the Acheng district dating from this year, Heilongjiang Province, China

1298 Battle of Korcula, Croatia, the Genoese and Venetian fleets list 'Bombadieri' among their ranks and were probably grenade throwers

1304 Edward I at the siege of Stirling was said to have used a combination of oil and saltpetre as an incendiary known as Greek Fire (he did not use cannon)

1304 Egyptians use hand guns against the Mongols

1306 Siege of Gibraltar where gunpowder appears to have been used

1313 Canon used in Ghent

(1313 Berthold Schwartz a friar from Breisgau in Germany was said to have made the first gun but now thought to be a renaissance invention)

1324 Cannon used at Siege of Metz

1324 English fortress of La Réole in Gascony falls after a month's bombardment by cannon

1326 Illustration of cannon by Walter Milemete in a book presented to the future Edward III

1326 Florentine document directs manufacture of metal cannon and inventory lists a bronze cannon (there are some doubts over this document)

1327 Cannon used by English against the Scots 'crakys of war', as described by John Barbour writing in 1375

1331 Cannon used at the siege of Cividale in Friuli, Italy

1331 Siege of Alicante, Spain, cannon described

1332 Chinese canon found. The inscription gives it as cannon number 300

1333 Edward III orders gunpowder from a York apothecary

1333 Cannon used at the siege of Berwick

1334 Cannon used in Merrburg, near Freiburg, Germany

1338 French documents list the purchase of iron arrows and sulphur

1338 Gunpowder is being stored in the Tower of London

1338 September 21 French with Genoese crossbowmen capture The Christopherwhich was armed with 3 guns of iron. The first gun shots were fired in a naval battle.

1338 October 4 French raiders attack Southampton, French used pot-defer, firing bolts with iron feathers.

1339 Peter Van Vullaere described as 'Maitre de rebaudequins', took service with the English at Bruges

1339 October 8 Cambrai accounts list the production of 5 iron and 5 metal cannon

1339 French use 'pot de fer' in Perigod and Cambrai against the English

1340 French use 'pot de fer' at Quesnoy

1340 Ribaudequins used at siege of Tournai

1340 Italian painting shows hand guns

1340 June 24 Edward III may have used cannon at the battle of Sluy

1341 Stirling Castle has guns for its defence

1341 Document from Lucca lists cannon

1342 Florentine inventory lists canon to fire iron balls the size of apples

1342 Spanish Muslims used cannon which fired metal balls against Castilian army at Siege of Algeciras (Earl of Derby and Salisbury were present at the siege)

1343 Spanish muslims used gunpowder against Alfonso XI of Castile

1344 The household of Edward III includes 'artillers and gonners'

1345 February 1, Pipe Rolls of Edward III list 'gunnis cum saggitis et pellotis' (guns with arrows and pellots)

1345 Earl of Derby uses canon at the siege of Monsegur

1345 Toulose record of 2 cannon

1345 Tower of London has 100 cannon

1345 French had 24 cannon made at Cahors for the siege of Aiguillon

1346 2 tons of gunpowder made at the Tower of London

1346 March 1 Pipe Rolls of Edward III list 'gunnis cum pelotes et pulvere pro eisden gunnis'

1346 May 10 Edward III inventory lists 10 guns or stocks or beds, 6 pieces of lead, 5 barrels of powder, 100 large pellots

1346 26 August Cannon used by the English at the battle of Crecy

1346 September Peter of Bruges makes a cannon used vat Tournay with a 2lb lead shot

1346 20 Cannon used at the siege of Calais

1347 Bioule record of 22 cannon

1349 Agen, record of canon throwing lead balls

1350 Lille record of arrows for cannon, Saltpetre and Sulphur

1350 Petrarch describes cannon as being in common use

1351 Chinese handgun found from this date

1353 William a brazier of Aldgate, London, casts 4 copper cannon for Edward III

1356 The accounts of Laon list cannon that fired arrows with oaken shafts

1365 Edward III installs 2 great and 9 small cannon at Queenborough

1369 Froissart records handguns used by trrops under the command of Sir John Chandos

1369 document from Pisa refers to Bombards

1370 Gun foundry reference to Augsburg

1371 Dover has 9 cannon Calais has 15 cannon

1371 First Cannon cast at Basel, Switzerland

1373-5 Accounts for the stocking of guns at the tower of London

1375 French use 32 cannon and fire 100 pound stone balls during siege at Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte

1376 Venice had a gun foundry

1377 Tower of London inventory lists 22 cannon

1377 St Gallen Switzerland had 11 cannon

1378 Venetian ships are bombarded by canon from Kotor

1380 Southampton converts some of its arrow slits to gun ports in the town wall towers

1382 cannon used by militia of Bruges, Ghent in the battle of Beverhoudsveld

1382 The bombarde Dulle Griete at Ghent had a 25 inch calibre and fired a 700 pound granite ball

1385 Castillians had 16 light cannon at the battle of Aljubarrota

1386 Battle of Sempach, Swiss use hand guns

1389 Battle of Kosovo, Ottoman Turks use cannon

1399 Richard II takes 8 guns to Ireland

1400 Konrad Kyeser illustrates a handgunner in Bellifortis

1400 Invention of corned (grained) gunpowder in Europe, this allowed the gunpowder to ignite throughout more easily



Chinese Firelance and Grenade

The earliest depiction of a fire lance and grenade from the 10th Century Dunhuang, China

Fire Lance And a Grenade 10th Century Dunhuang


Cannon Finds

Chinese Handgun

Bronze handgun found in the Acheng district dating from 1288, Heilongjiang Province, China

Chinese Handgun 1288


Loshult Cannon

The Loshult cannon was found in Loshult, Skåne, Sweden, and is now now in the Statens Historika Museum. This is cast from bronze and weighs 9.07 kg and has a muzzle calibre of 36 mm and an overall length of 300 mm.

Early cannon were cast from a variety of metals and and were probably made in bell foundries.

From the mid 14th Century canon were made of up of a cylindrical wooden core alongside which longitudinal wrought iron strips were placed, and hammered over this were heated metal hoops. The whole cannon was then heated to burn out the core and fuse the wrought iron together.

Loshult Cannon


Chinese Handgun

Chinese canon dating from 1332. The inscription gives it as cannon number 300 which indicates that a large number had been produced.

Chinese Handgun 1332


German Bombarde

Bombarde from the Stadt Museum, Cologne, Germany, said to be from 1377

Germany Koln Cologne Bombarde 1377


Mörkö Hand Gun

Mörkö Gun estimated at around 1390 with a hexagonal barrel and religious inscriptions

Morko Handgun

Mörkö Gun, Statens Historika Museum, Sweden


European Hand Gun

European handgun dating from 1390-1400

handgun 1390-1400

Musee de l'Armee, Paris France


Tannenburg Hand Gun

Found in 1849 in a well at Tannenburg, which was destroyed in 1399, so probably pre dates this.

Tannenburg Handgun

Tannenburg Hand Gun, Germanic museum, Nuremburg, Germany


Milan Italy

Handguns from Italy dating from the end of the 14th Century to the beginning of the 15th Century

14th and 15th Century Handguns

Hand Guns, Sforza Castle Museum, Milan, Italy


German Handgun 1400

Handgun from the Stadt Museum, Cologne, dated 1400

Germany Cologne Stdat Museum handgun 1400


St Barbara

Patron Saint

St. Barbara became the patron saint of gunners, as her martyrdom is alleged to have been avenged by a bolt of lightning.

Saint Barbara


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