Marine war chest: Nuremberg, Germany, XVI century


Nuremberg, Germany, second half of XVI – early XVII century

Dimensions: W. 84 x H. 48 x D. 45 cm, weight circa 100 kg.

Rectangular Marine chest known as Nuremberg, Armada or War chest in heavy wrought iron and riveted reinforcement straps with solid side drop handles, whose rods have been hot-fitted and are therefore unremovable. They are twisted in the middle then folded at each end in a horizontal position. This way, the handles, once lifted, lock onto the side walls, preventing carriers from getting their hands stuck. The front is decorated with a false lock and two hasps for padlocks. A rod could then be threaded thought the rings and padlocked at the end, offering additional protection.

Hinged lid, the central keyhole fitted with a spring-loaded keyhole cover. On the inside, an elaborate mechanism with twelve movable latches, concealed behind an ornamental openwork plate in chiseled metal with natural motifs, namely representing fish and birds. Another smaller lockable inner trunk welded to the metal siding. The chest is then kept open with an iron bar and this system is found on all the chests of Nuremberg. Mechanisms are fully functional with the two original keys.


Stunning example of a sixteenth – early seventeenth century iron bound Nuremberg chest, used to protect gold and silver coins. In very good condition and complete with the original keys. German Nuremberg blacksmiths were renown for this type of iron chest whose use is documented mainly on military ships from 1500 to 1700.

A decorative fake iron keyhole, often resembling a shell, rosette, or foliage, was frequently applied to the front face of the chest. Its primary function was to deter potential thieves; attempting to breach such a lock was futile, as the actual opening mechanism resided elsewhere. The authentic lock, accessible via a secret key, is situated on the lid, enabling the release of the lock’s entrance by delicately lifting a false rivet.

The locking mechanism was positioned on the lid’s rear surface. Activated by turning a key, the twelve bolts of our safe are engaged. To further guarantee its inviolability, the chest was fixed at the bottom to the floor of the captain’s cabin. However, as this type of chest was not used exclusively on ships, it could just as well be bolted to the floor beams of a manor.


Additional information




German private collection