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The Tsar Cannon: the largest bombard by caliber in the world

David Goran

Cast in 1586 in Moscow’s Cannon Court by the famed Russian bronze master Andrey Chokhov on the orders of Tsar Feodor Ioannovich, the sovereign ruler of All Great Russia, the Tsar Cannon is recognized as the largest bombard by caliber in the world.

However, it is technically classified as a stylized mortar rather than a cannon because of the very low ratio of the length of its barrel to its caliber.

Located near the Kremlin Armory, facing towards the Kremlin Senate. Photo Credit

Located near the Kremlin Armory, facing towards the Kremlin Senate. Photo Credit

 

One of the largest and oldest cannons in the world. Photo Credit

One of the largest and oldest cannons in the world. Photo Credit

 

Cast in bronze in 1586 in Moscow by Andrey Chokhov, a Russian master bronze caster. Photo Credit

Cast in bronze in 1586 in Moscow by Andrey Chokhov, a Russian master bronze caster. Photo Credit

 

As the name suggests, it was built on the orders of Tsar Feodor Ioannovich, the sovereign ruler of All Great Russia. Photo Credit

As the name suggests, it was built on the orders of Tsar Feodor Ioannovich, the sovereign ruler of All Great Russia. Photo Credit

This bronze weapon was meant to be used for defending the Moscow Kremlin and it was most likely designed to fire 800 kg stone grapeshot on attacking enemy troops, hence its other nickname, “Russia’s Shotgun”.

According to legend, the cannon has never actually been fired. But in the late 20th century it was thoroughly studied by experts in the Artillery Academy and they found a gunpowder residue, indicating that the cannon had been fired at least once but its performance is unknown.

The cast iron balls were cast in 1834 and are for decoration only. They weigh 1 ton each and are too large to be used by the cannon. Photo Credit

The cast iron balls were cast in 1834 and are for decoration only. They weigh 1 ton each and are too large to be used by the cannon. Photo Credit

 

It was never used in a war. Photo Credit

It was never used in a war. Photo Credit

 

A monument of Russian artillery casting art. Photo Credit

A monument of Russian artillery casting art. Photo Credit

The decorative cannonballs and the carriage were cast at the same time at the Berdt’s Factory in St Petersburg. Photo Credit

The decorative cannonballs and the carriage were cast at the same time at the Berdt’s Factory in St Petersburg. Photo Credit

 

A cast relief image of Tsar Fyodor Ivanovich on horseback holding a scepter in his hand. Photo Credit

A cast relief image of Tsar Fyodor Ivanovich on horseback holding a scepter in his hand. Photo Credit

The cannon’s surface is adorned with fine decorative work, memorial inscriptions, cast figured friezes, and located near the muzzle of the barrel, an image of Tsar Feodor Ioannovich riding a horse. The creative minds behind the decorations on the carriage and the cannon itself are the architect A. P. Bryullov and drawings engineer P. Ya. de Witte.

Read another story from us: One of the largest cannons built in the Middle Ages: The Mons Meg at Edinburgh Castle in Scotland

Since 1960 it has stood outside the Kremlin in Moscow on a cast-iron gun carriage along with four cannonballs weighing almost a ton each and produced only for decoration.