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Kartouwe exhibit in Königstein Fortress (Germany)
Half-kartouwe exhibit in Magdeburg (Germany)
The fortifications of Oostende (Fig. 1) and the parts of a kartouwe (Figs. 2 and 3) in a 1616 print
Kartouwe and accessories in a 1616 print

A kartouwe is a siege gun used in European warfare during the 16th and 17th centuries.[1] The name is a corruption of Latin quartana[2] (quarter cannon).[3] Kartouwe is of Dutch origin,[3] in the Holy Roman Empire the gun was called Kartaune in German or cartouwe in contemporary Latin,[4] in the Swedish Empire Kartow,[4] spelling variants include kartouw, kartouve,[5] cartow,[3] cartaun,[3] courtaun[3] and others.


Kartouwen were developed from bombards.[1] A kartouwe has a caliber of 8 inches (200 mm), weighs about 8,000 pounds (3,600 kg), and is designed to fire cannonballs weighing up to 52 pounds (24 kg).[6] As a minimum, twenty horses or oxen were needed to move a kartouwe.[6]

In addition to "whole" ("hele") kartouwen, there were also double,[7] half ("halve")[8] and quarter kartouwen.[4] The barrel of a whole kartouwen has a length of 18 to 19 times the caliber, weighs 300 kilograms (660 lb) to 350 kilograms (770 lb) and was transported on a special wagon by 20 to 24 horses, another four to eight horses were needed to transport the mount (lafette).[9] The barrel length of a half-kartouwen is 32 to 34 times the caliber, which ranges between 105 millimetres (4.1 in) and 115 millimetres (4.5 in).[9] Its barrel weighs 110 kilograms (240 lb) to 150 kilograms (330 lb), the whole gun 170 kilograms (370 lb) to 240 kilograms (530 lb).[9] Half-kartouwen fired cannonballs weighing between 8 pounds (3.6 kg) and 10 pounds (4.5 kg), and for the transport of its barrel, 10 to 16 horses were needed.[9]

Use and perception[edit]

Kartouwen were used for example in the Livonian War by the Russian[5] and Swedish forces.[7] During the Battle of Narva (1581), the besieging Swedish forces destroyed the walls of Narva, 5.5 metres (18 ft) strong, within two days using twenty-four double and half-kartouwen.[7]

Kartouwen were also the characteristic of the Thirty Years' War.[10] As such, they were featured in contemporary poems,[10] e.g. in Am liebsten bey der Liebsten by Sibylla Schwarz ("grausame Kartaune", "gruesome kartouwe").[11] In his 1844 poem Die Tendenz, Heinrich Heine used kartouwen to symbolize loudness.[12]



  1. ^ a b Meyers (1907), p. 682; Brockhaus (1911), p. 943
  2. ^ Meyers (1907), p. 682; Brockhaus (1911), p. 943; Adelung (1796), p. 1506
  3. ^ a b c d e Llewellyn (1936), p. 24
  4. ^ a b c Adelung (1796), p. 1506
  5. ^ a b Peterson (2007), p.95
  6. ^ a b Kasekamp (1990); Peterson (2007), p. 95
  7. ^ a b c Kasekamp (1990)
  8. ^ Kasekamp (1990); Adelung (1796), p. 1506
  9. ^ a b c d Medick & Winnige, entry "Stück"
  10. ^ a b Hartung (1995), p. 329
  11. ^ Sibylla Schwarz, Am liebsten bey der Liebsten: "So schreckt mich die Posaune / das Spiel der Schwerdter nicht / die grausame Kartaune / kompt nie mir ins Gesicht."
  12. ^ Sørensen & Arndal (2002), p. 23


  • Hartung, Harald (1995). Gedichte und Interpretationen. Vom Naturalismus bis zur Jahrhundertmitte. Reclam Universal-Bibliothek (in German). 7894. Reclam. ISBN 3-15-007894-6.
  • Kasekamp, Andreas (1990). "Characteristics of warfare in the times of Henry of Livonia and Balthasar Russow". Lituanus. 36 (1). ISSN 0024-5089. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  • Llewellyn, E.C. "The Influence of Low Dutch on the English Vocabulary. Oxford University Press, London 1936". De Digitale Bibliotheek voor de Nederlandse Letteren. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  • Medick, Hans; Winnige, Norbert. "Begriffsregister zum Selbstzeugnis des Hans Krafft" (in German). Thüringer Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Jena. Retrieved 8 March 2010.
  • Peterson, Gary Dean (2007). Warrior kings of Sweden. The rise of an empire in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. McFarland. ISBN 0-7864-2873-2.
  • Sørensen, Bengt Algot; Arndal, Steffen (2002). Geschichte der deutschen Literatur (in German). 2 (2 ed.). C.H.Beck. ISBN 3-406-47589-2.
  • "Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon, Band 10. Leipzig 1907, S. 682" (in German). zeno.org. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  • "Brockhaus' Kleines Konversations-Lexikon, fünfte Auflage, Band 1. Leipzig 1911, S. 943" (in German). zeno.org. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  • "Adelung, Grammatisch-kritisches Wörterbuch der Hochdeutschen Mundart, Band 2. Leipzig 1796, S. 1506" (in German). zeno.org. Retrieved 7 March 2010.