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The Pernštejn Cannons on the Embankments

In August 2017 replicas of the cannons that stood on the castle embankments during the Pernštejn era were unveiled at a ceremony on the embankments.

The replicas were made in 2017 at the Upanema company, by master gunsmith Miloš Skrbek from Vysoká nad Labem. They were modelled on historical depictions of the original cannons; the number and calibre of the barrels match the descriptions of two cannons in an inventory of the Pernštejns’ arsenal drawn up in 1560.

The Pernštejns’ arsenal in Pardubice contained weaponry for over a thousand men. It also included powerful artillery guns. In 1560 there were a total of 83 cannon barrels at the castle, mounted on 39 gun carriages. Eight cannons were installed at permanent positions on the town-facing side of the castle embankments, pointing towards the only access road to the castle (from the barbican known as Příhrádek). There is still an access road running along the same route, but instead of today’s earth embankment and stone bridge there used to be a wooden bridge – which could be quickly and easily dismantled (and even destroyed) if necessary. Today there are trees blocking the view of the access road, but they were not there in the Pernštejn era, when the castle’s defenders had a clear view of anybody attempting to cross the bridge. The area around the castle (today a park and tennis courts) could be flooded with water if necessary.

The eight cannons on the embankments had 50 barrels in total; they were known as “organ cannons”. They were capable of responding quite quickly to threats and firing at the access route, but it is likely that their main function was to deter potential attackers – as well as showcasing the Pernštejns’ power, wealth, and ability to defend their extensive property.

Because the only access route to the castle passed through the town, any attackers intending to take the castle first had to take control of the town – which boasted its own impressive fortifications, including three gates. This meant that the castle troops would always be forewarned of an impending attack; they would have enough time to load the cannons and prepare to fire. We do not know for certain if supplies of ammunition, gunpowder and other equipment used by the gunners (sponges, rammers, primers and so on) were also kept on the embankments, but in times of tension this may well have been the case, because without these supplies the cannons could not be used.