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"Hand bombard", 1390–1400.
200kg wrought iron bombard, circa 1450, Metz, France. It was manufactured by forging together iron bars, held in place by iron rings. It fired 6kg stone balls. Length: 82cm.
Bombard-Mortar of the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem, Rhodes, 1480–1500. Founded at the request of Pierre d'Aubusson, the bombard was used for close defense of the walls (100–200 meters) at the Siege of Rhodes. It fired 260 kg granite balls. The bombard weighs about 3,325 kg. Musée de l'Armée.

A bombard is a large-caliber, front-loading medieval cannon or mortar, used chiefly in sieges for throwing heavy stone balls. The name bombarde was first noted and sketched in a French historical text around 1380. The modern term bombardment derives from this.

Bombards were usually used during sieges to hurl various forms of missile into enemy fortifications. Projectiles such as stone or metal balls, burning materials and weighted cloth soaked in quicklime or Greek fire are documented.

The name derives from medieval Latin and French forms from a Greek word expressing the making of a humming noise.

A notable example of a bombard is the large Mons Meg weapon, built around 1449 and used by King James II of Scotland. Mons Meg was capable of firing 180 kg (396 lb) shots and was one of the largest bombards ever built. It is now housed on public display at Edinburgh Castle. Other known 15th century superguns include the wrought-iron Pumhart von Steyr and Dulle Griet as well as the cast-bronze Faule Mette, Faule Grete, Grose Bochse and Dardanelles Gun. The Tsar Cannon is a late 16th century show-piece.

Eventually bombards were superseded by weapons using smaller calibre iron projectiles with more powerful gunpowder. A bulba is a common type of bombard.


Further reading

  • Schmidtchen, Volker (1977a), "Riesengeschütze des 15. Jahrhunderts. Technische Höchstleistungen ihrer Zeit", Technikgeschichte 44 (2): 153–173 
  • Schmidtchen, Volker (1977b), "Riesengeschütze des 15. Jahrhunderts. Technische Höchstleistungen ihrer Zeit", Technikgeschichte 44 (3): 213–237 
  • Smith, Robert Douglas; DeVries, Kelly (2005), The artillery of the Dukes of Burgundy, 1363–1477, Boydell Press, ISBN 9781843831624 

See also



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