MIL OSI Translation. Region: Russian Federation –
At the moment, the museum has completed work on the final formation in its courtyard of a new exposition complex called “Medny Dvor”. The outdoor exposition of the Military Historical Museum of Artillery, Engineering Troops and Signal Corps in the open air is unique in its completeness, historical value and has almost no analogues in the world. It contains samples of weapons and military equipment from different eras – from ancient artillery pieces to modern missile systems. This exposition has been created for many years (since the mid-1990s) and is regularly replenished with new samples.
The first part of the exposition “Copper Yard” presented earlier, uniting cannon barrels of different countries and eras, magnificent in their beauty, aroused great interest of visitors. Now it is complemented by unique mortars, each of which is also a true masterpiece of bronze casting.
It should be recalled that up to the XX century. artillery pieces cast from cannon bronze (an alloy of copper with a small, up to 11%, amount of tin) were often called “copper”. This historical tradition served as the basis for naming the exposition “Copper yard”.
The new complex presents ancient mortars created by the masters of cannon and foundry from Russia, China, Prussia, Sweden, France, Persia, the Ottoman Empire, etc., starting from the 16th century. and ending with the second half of the 19th century.
The first mortars appeared at the end of the XIV century. The barrel of the new type of guns became significantly shorter compared to conventional cannons and had thicker walls that could withstand a blow from a gunpowder explosion. The wide mouth also made it possible to use new types of projectiles, such as cannonballs and metal blanks, hollow projectiles filled with explosive mixtures, which, with the help of wicks, exploded either in the air or upon reaching the target. Mortars were useful in sieges, because if the bombard was unable to break through a wall or gate, then the mortar could throw explosive bombs and heavy cannonballs over high walls, which could destroy city buildings from roof to bottom and destroy enemy personnel.
It is believed that the mortar took the form from a chemical mortar, which the legendary monk Berthold Schwarz allegedly used when working on the creation of gunpowder. In Latin, this weapon was called mortarium (“mortar”).
The exposition is opened by unique Russian mortars created by famous foundry workers of the second half of the 17th century, including Panteley Yakovlev, Yakov Dubina and Login Zhikharev. You can also see domestic guns of a later time – samples that were cast at the Izhora Admiralty Plant and the St. Petersburg Arsenal until the middle of the 19th century.
The real gem of the collection are mortars of the late 17th – early 18th centuries, cast in Riga, which at that time was one of the largest cities in the Kingdom of Sweden. In 1710 the Russian army began a siege of this city. It is known that Peter I personally fired three shots at the city fortifications from a mortar. After the surrender of Riga, Russian troops captured a large number of artillery pieces. Some of these highly artistic specimens are on display at the new exhibition of the museum.
The Prussian trophy mortar, cast at the very beginning of the 18th century under the first king of Prussia Frederick, is distinguished by its beauty and grace. She is a trophy of the Seven Years’ War 1756-1763. and was brought to the St. Petersburg Arsenal after the capture of Memel (present-day Klaipeda). The mortar is distinguished by rich casting with the image of royal monograms, the Prussian eagle, floral ornaments, military fittings.
Two beautiful mortars were cast in the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation in 1717. They are decorated with the monograms of Emperor Charles VI and double-headed eagles – the imperial coat of arms. By the way, these mortars could be turned against Russia as well, because This year there was a conflict caused by the flight of Tsarevich Alexei, the son of Peter I, to Charles VI.
Many of the presented mortars were made by famous European craftsmen. For example, on display you can see several mortars created by Gerhard Meyer, a representative of the famous family of bronze casters. It was a whole dynasty of German origin, operating from the end of the 16th to the end of the 18th century in Copenhagen, Florence, Riga, Stockholm, Tallinn and other cities. Gerhard Meyer, at the age of sixteen, was appointed royal cannon master by the Swedish king Fredrik I. At the end of his life he even became a member of the Royal Academy of Sciences.
Quite remarkable is the French mortar, cast in Douai by Jean-Jacques and Jean-Balthazar Kellers in 1685. These two brothers had a great influence on the creation of cannons in France and made thousands of artillery pieces.
The new complex has united about 30 mortars, most of which have survived in a single copy and have been kept in the museum’s funds for a long time.
The “Medny Dvor” will be part of the external exposition of the museum, which is permanently open in its courtyard. In the autumn-winter period, admission to the external exhibition is free.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and / or sentence structure not be perfect.