There appears to be little doubt that in Europe the first thunder clap of artillery was heard in Spain, the first reliable report being of Mohammed IV of Granada at the Alicante and Orihuela borders in 1331. Similarly, artíllery was used by the Moors in the siege of Algeciras (1342­1344).

The first mention written of naval artillery was in the skirmishes between Peter the Ceremonious of Granada and Peter the Cruel of Castille in1359. Putting a bombard on a ship of Peter of Granada contributed to the defeat of the fleet of his enemy.

A little later in 1371, the Castillian navy gained a brilliant victory against the English at La Rochelle - principally due to the good use of artillery.

In the History of Artillery four periods have been recognised


     1     That of the Bombards, from theír first use up to the beginning of the 16`" century;

2     That of the Culverin to the end of the 17`" century;

3     That of Artillery based on the Royal System to the end of the 19t" century;

4     Artillery with Rifled Barrels.




Every piece of artillery is composed of two main parts - the barrel and its mount. The barrel is a long hollow tube; gunpowder is fed into the bottom of the barrel with the projectile immediately next to it. When the powder is ignited the projectile is ejected by the gases produced.

The oldest known artillery pieces are the bombards or lombards, their most notable characteristic being the separation of barrel and powder chamber. External fittings enabled these to be lashed to each other and to the mounting ready for firing.


             These two components were not of solid metal but of strips bound together by outside hoops - like a cask made of metal instead of wood. (Hoop and stave construction)

            In the mid-14t" century these units began to be fashioned of solid metal. The metal used was bronze (an alloy of copper and tin) and named fúslera. There were many ironworkers who could make hoop and stave bombards but those made of solid metal needed skílled workers - bell-makers who used the same alloy for both bells and guns, (although that used for bells with its higher tin content was unsuitable as it caused many barrels to fracture - generally at the first firing).



             As for the mounting, it was simply a block of wood on which the assembly was fixed. Elevation was initially effected by placing wooden wedges beneath the front, changing later to a system of frames and crossbeams which could be adjusted to various levels, the front of the bombard resting on top. The mounting was initially called ajusta or fuste in Aragon and, later in Castille, the general word cureña (the name given to part of a crossbow) was used.

 Firing the bombard involved:

1   Filling the powder chamber to about three-quarters full.

2   Inserting a wooden plug on top of the powder, compressing it lightly

3   Joining the powder chamber to the barrel by passing ropes through the hoops, lashing     

     them tightly, then tying the whole to the mounting.

   4   Putting the projectile into the muzzle and ramming it home.

   5   Firing the gun by putting a red-hot ¡ron into the external vent which, full of 

       powder, communicated with the main charge.



                It can be seen that there was quite a long delay between one shot and the next and, apart from the above procedures, the gun had to be aimed. To reduce the interval each bombard sometimes had two powder chambers so that one was being prepared while the other was being fired. In spite of this the rate of fire was very slow and it would seem that not more than eight or ten shots per day were possible.


 The projectiles fired by bombards were cannon balls or shot, of ¡ron or of stone. Iron was the better but cannon balls presented production difficulties when they needed to be very large. Stone production presented fewer problems because stone-cutters were plentiful and having a quarry nearby made the supply of stone shot simple. Leaded ¡ron shot (called bodoques) was also used.



 Bombards were almost exclusívely used for firing flat (straight) trajectories. Hígh curved trajectories       were    attained by a shorter-barrelled, wide calibre piece, generally bell-shaped, called a mortar. This was also    of stave and hoop construction but the powder chamber was much narrower than the barrel


Another gun used at this time was the falconet whích had a framework

 at the rear supporting the powder chamber; this was called

the alcuza At the end of this framework was a handle which

 enabled the falconet to be rotated about an axis.


The bombard was little improved during the 14`" and early 15t" centuries. But later in the 15`" century there were two important innovations: the calibre was slightly reduced at the muzzle end to increase resistance and the use of ¡ron shot became more prevalent..

  To give some idea of the capabilities of artillery at this time, here are some statistics:

The weight of a bombard could reach 6000 kg, that of the projectiles from 5 to 150 kg in the case of stone shot and 250 kg if ¡ron shot were used. Their calibre varied up to 580 m

The range at the end of the 14`" century reached 1300 m, rísing to 2000 m at the end of the 15" century. In the latter half of the 15t" century lighter and more mobile pieces made their appearance leading gradually to the acquisition of more of these and less use of large guns. The 16`" century continued to produce improvements, the guns being welded into one piece instead of two.


Another innovation was the addition of trunions - two cylindrical projections enabling the gun to pivot   vertically and vary elevation.

The mobile gun carriages were developed to a pattern they were to keep, more or less, for many centuries.

Most guns were no longer made by individual artisans but by purpose-built govermnent establishments. Numerous arsenals were set up - notably in Malaga, Medina del Campo, Barcelona and Burgos. Projectiles were always of ¡ron, and from the mid-16th century the shell began to be used - a hollow sphere filled with gunpowder. Cannon balls wrapped in sacking were also fired - they caught fire and lit up the battlefield




Artillery in those early times was used almost exclusively for siege warfare. For guns to move with an army it was necessary to make them lighter , and to achieve greater ranges the barrels were lengthened.

Thus appeared the characteristic pieces of the period - the culverin, the cannon, the sacers and the sacabuches.

The culverin was usually of bronze fashioned in one piece and muzzle-loaded. There were about thirty different calibres and their range was 5000 m.

The sacers and sacabuches were also members of the culverin famíly, but of smaller bore. These could be considered the forerunners of the infantry small arms. Those of greater calibre than the culverin were called cannon; with a shorter barrel, made of bronze and muzzle­loading.



                           Culverin                                           Cannon                                   Sacabuches
Pasavolante Verso



                                   ARTILLERY BASED ON THE ROYAL SYSTEM

If one examines accounts of the artillery an army carríed, the vast diversity is astonishing. Even those pieces with the same name and calibre were not necessarily ídentical, the eharacteristics of each depending on the whim of the maker or of the person making the requisition. The loading of artillery was very eomplicated and firing was often interrupted at the height of an action.

Charles V, in advance of his contemporaries, successfully brought a certain order into the many different types of gun - which had grown to one hundred and sixty - reducing them to a more manageable number. He established six categories, namely of forty, twenty-six, twelve, six and three pounds plus a mortar.

This attempt to simplify only partíally succeeded. In the time of Philip II, following the same trend, seven categories were established: cannon and demi­cannon; culverins and demi-culverins; sacers and demi-sacers, and falconets.At the end of the 16t" century six categories existed: cannon (of 40, 35, 32 and 301b); demi -cannon (of 20, 18, 16 and 15); very small calibre cannon (of 10, 8and 7); culverins (of 24, 20, 18 and 16); demi-culverins (of 12, 10, 8 and 7) and very small culverins (of 5, 4, 3 and 2).

In the beginning of the 17'h century Philip III limited the number ofcannon types but these reforms were again applied piecemeal.

           At the end of the 17t" and beginning of the 18t" centuries the production in the Royal Factories was centralised and they became the only arms manufacturers - private manufacturers being excluded. Calibres were regulated and reduced to an essential number. This followed the Naval Ordinance of 1718.

          The calibre was expressed by the weight of the cannon ball. Thus if one talked of a 12 cannon, it meant a cannon firing a ball weighing 12 lb. The barrels continued to be decorated and differed little from the previous period.

          In 1743 another Ordinance was issued - decoration disappeared, the mounting was made lighter, the variety of calibres was limited and the cartridge made its appearance (shell and charge joined to form one unit for simplifed firing). Artillery was classified as: Siege cannon, Field cannon, Howitzers, Mortars.