Orsini bomb

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Orsini bomb, 1858.

An Orsini bomb is a spherical bomb which instead of a fuse or timing device, is surrounded by many small "horns" filled with mercury fulminate. On impact at any angle, these would ignite or detonate the main charge.

The bomb was invented by, or devised for, the Italian nationalist conspirator Felice Orsini, who, with accomplices, threw three at Napoleon III in 1858. The attack failed to kill the Emperor, but killed eight others and wounded 142, including Orsini himself, who was arrested and subsequently executed (see Orsini affair for the context). Orsini tested the bomb in Putney, as well as quarries in Sheffield and Devon.[1]

In 1893, in retaliation for the execution of the anarchist Paulí Pallás, who had thrown a bomb at General Arsenio Martínez Campos, the Spanish anarchist Santiago Salvador threw two Orsini bombs into the crowd at Barcelona's Liceu Theater. Only one of the bombs detonated, but it killed 22 people, and injured 35. The unexploded bomb was saved. It is believed that it is the Orsini bomb existing in the Barcelona City History Museum (MUHBA), and was temporarily displayed at the Van Gogh Museum in 2007, during an exhibit on Barcelona around 1900.

A demon gives an Orsini bomb to a worker.

Antoni Gaudi included in his famous work the Sagrada Familia a sculpture of a demon (representing temptation) handing an Orsini bomb to a working-class man inside the portal dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary (the right-side entrance of the cloister from the Nativity façade, partially finished in 1899).[2]


  1. ^ Anderson, p. 115.
  2. ^ Larson, p.126


  • Anderson, Benedict Richard O'Gorman (2005). Under Three Flags: Anarchism And the Anti-colonial Imagination, Verso Books, ISBN 1-84467-037-6.
  • Larson, Susan; Woods, Eva (2005). Visualizing Spanish Modernity, Berg Publishers, ISBN 1-85973-806-0.

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