JUMIÈGES ABBEY. NORMANDY – CANONICAL DIAL: ‘Les heures canoniales’

Artistic inspiration led to the installation of an astonishing modern ‘sundial’ in the ruins of the sublime C12 Abbey of Jumièges. This complex time-measurer of the religious day is quite unlike any other I have seen, or expect to see. I have no idea quite how it was conceived or executed. It truly is the interface of Science and Art.

‘The relation between the spiritual elevation of Benedictine monks and celestial radiance’

It is the work of Jacques Leclercq-K (as he designates himself). ‘Les heures canoniales 2016’ is an enormous 10m high / 3m wide structure, yet it succeeds in being extraordinarily delicate.

Jumièges Abbey . Normandy . Canonical Sundial

The 48 long sharp needles of these ecclesiastical stalactites and stalagmites form a remarkable screen within their space in the ruins. Each is marked with its own significance in the greater scheme of the hourly divisions and rites of the church.

Jumièges Abbey . Normandy . Canonical Sundial

The subtitle of the work translates as a relation between the elevation of the Benedictine monks and celestial radiance. One surprising feature is the ease with which such a very modern concept works with the ancient structure that frames it, and with the architectural details such as the Piscina (below).

Jumièges Abbey . Normandy . Canonical Sundial
Jumièges Abbey . Normandy . Canonical Sundial

As Leclercq explains, the canonical times of day and night are divided into 8 parts, beginning at midnight, and each announced by a ring of bells. These segments – each with a specific liturgical significance – are Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline (see diagram). The rod representing each canonical hour is marked with a blue dot and the initial letter of the relevant hour.

Mass Dial . St Martin . Cheselbourne . Dorset

It is worth noting that many of the medieval mass or scratch dials featured elsewhere in this site are incised (or roughly marked) on the local church for the benefit of the populace, and include the canonical hours as kept in that community. These may be emphasised by being deeper or wider cut, or by being extended, or by having a pock or even a cross at the end of the radials.

Truly, Leclercq’s work is a modern art installation and scientific wonder rolled into one delicate structure. It is Scripture as Sculpture

Jumièges Abbey . Normandy . Canonical Sundial

GSS Category: Miraculous

All photos: Keith Salvesen

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