ST RÉMY DU VAL . SARTHE . NORMANDY . FRANCE – St Rémy et St Rigomer

St Rémy et St Rigomer . St Rémy du Val . Normandy

St Rémy du Val is about 12m SE of Alençon, in a countryside of fields and forests. The church of St Rémy et St Rigomer stands high above the river Bienne, beside a now-ruined small castle. It has early origins but dates mainly from C15. The strong tower also had a defensive purpose. At some stage a small and attractive renaissance double doorway was added, a pleasing architectural contrast.

DIAL

St Rémy et St Rigomer . St Rémy du Val . Normandy – scratch dial

The dial is located on the SW face of the buttress shown in the foreground of the header image. There is a definite tilt to this part of the church supported by the buttress, and to the adjacent buildings (the photo exaggerates it considerably).

I wasn’t expecting to find a dial (or even looking for one), and I was lucky to see such an unobtrusive example as we walked past. I later discovered that there is one other mention of it, and of a possible small dial close to it.

The dial is considerably eroded and quite badly damaged in the lower R quadrant. Close-to, its relative sophistication is evident. The radials are within a double circle and as far as one can tell do not overlap the inner circumference. Almost certainly the lines were incised all the way round the gnomon hole. There is a hint that in the lower half – or perhaps just the lower L quadrant – there are half-hour marks as well. Perhaps these details suggest a C16 dial.

St Rémy et St Rigomer . St Rémy du Val . Normandy – scratch dial (detail)

SMALL DIAL?

Michael Lalos, who runs a very good site for French sundials of all types, also found this small design. At first sight it doesn’t look very promising as a dial, and might perhaps be an apotropaic symbol. However in the last year I have found 2 or 3 very similar designs that in their context were most likely intended as dials.

GSS Category: Scratch Dial

All photos Keith Salvesen except the last pair, Michael Lalos

BARFLEUR . FRANCE . Saint-Nicolas – Vertical Dial

Barfleur is a small town / large village on the NE tip of the Contentin peninsula in Normandy, roughly due E of Cherbourg. The church of St Nicolas, despite the initial impression, was built mid-C17. Later additions and restoration mid-C19 incorporated an impressively large sundial (it doesn’t seem to have been a later addition).

The face of the dial has almost entirely been obliterated, with half a dozen very faint lines just visible in the lower L quadrant. There is also the hint of a frame under the cast shadow, though it might simply be the remains of a horizontal line. Erosion by the sea over many decades has made the details speculative. The gnomon may possibly be original. Whether or not, the design of the tip is clever and includes a small hole at the tip that creates a neat spearhead.

GSS Category: Old Dial; Eurodial; French Sundial

All photos: Keith Salvesen

LAVAUDIEU . AUVERGNE . MAIRIE – Dial Simplicity

Lavaudieu is a small Auvergne town with a fine romanesque Abbey. For present purposes, the sundial on the wall of the Mairie is the attraction. On a bright sunny day, the simplicity and legibility of this civic dial is hard to beat. The ‘arrowheads’ might be considered a little too ornate for the overall design.

‘Moins est plus’ might be a good motto for the dial, as it is more generally. As soon as I saw it I knew it would be in my top 20 non-medieval dials. It still is.

GSS Category: Modern Dial

Photos: Keith Salvesen

LES CADRANS SOLAIRES DE COARAZE: CERAMIC TILE SUNDIALS IN PROVENCE

 Cadrans Solaires Sundials Coaraze (© Keith Salvesen)
Cadrans Solaires . Ceramic Sundials . Coaraze . Provence – Jean Cocteau

LES CADRANS SOLAIRES: THE CERAMIC TILE SUNDIALS OF COARAZE, PROVENCE

The nine sundials shown below are in Coaraze, a small medieval ‘village perché’ (650m) in the Alpes-Maritimes, Provence, north of Nice. They include sundials by artistic polymath Jean Cocteau (poet, novelist, dramatist, designer, artist and filmmaker); Ponce de Leon; and Henri Goetz, among others. They are located in two places in the village (1) on the front and side walls of the Marie (2) at the top of the village on a south-facing walls in the square in front of the church. They need no interpretation by me: everyone who views these wonderful sundials will experience their own personal response to each one.

MONA CRISTIE – LA CHEVAUCHÉE DU TEMPS

Cadrans Solaires . Ceramic Sundials . Coaraze . Provence – Mona Cristie
Cadrans Solaires . Ceramic Sundials . Coaraze . Provence – Mona Cristie

GEORGES DOUKING – LES ANIMAUX FABULEUX

Cadrans Solaires . Ceramic Sundials . Coaraze . Provence – Georges Douking
Cadrans Solaires . Ceramic Sundials . Coaraze . Provence – Georges Douking

JEAN COCTEAU – LES LÉZARDS

Lizards are the historic symbol of the village

 Cadrans Solaires Sundials Coaraze (© Keith Salvesen)
Cadrans Solaires . Ceramic Sundials . Coaraze . Provence – Jean Cocteau
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Cadrans Solaires . Ceramic Sundials . Coaraze . Provence – Jean Cocteau

GILBERT VALENTIN – LES  TOURNESOLS     

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Cadrans Solaires . Ceramic Sundials . Coaraze . Provence – Gilbert Valentin
 Cadrans Solaires Sundials Coaraze (© Keith Salvesen)
Cadrans Solaires . Ceramic Sundials . Coaraze . Provence – Gilbert Valentin

FABIENNE BARRE (2008)

On the side wall of the Marie, with a view of the village

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Cadrans Solaires . Ceramic Sundials . Coaraze . Provence – Fabienne Barre
 Cadrans Solaires Sundials Coaraze (© Keith Salvesen)
Cadrans Solaires . Ceramic Sundials . Coaraze . Provence – Fabienne Barre

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Cadrans Solaires . Ceramic Sundials . Coaraze . Provence – Fabienne Barre

ANGEL PONCE DE LÉON – BLUE TIME (1961)        

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Cadrans Solaires . Ceramic Sundials . Coaraze . Provence – Angel Ponce de Léon

 Cadrans Solaires Sundials Coaraze (© Keith Salvesen)
Cadrans Solaires . Ceramic Sundials . Coaraze . Provence – Angel Ponce de Léon

HENRI GOETZ – LE PYTHON ET SA COURONNE EN VERT ET OR (1961)           

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Cadrans Solaires . Ceramic Sundials . Coaraze . Provence – Henri Goetz
 Cadrans Solaires Sundials Coaraze (© Keith Salvesen)
Cadrans Solaires . Ceramic Sundials . Coaraze . Provence – Henri Goetz

SACHA SOSNO (2007)        

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Cadrans Solaires . Ceramic Sundials . Coaraze . Provence – Sacha Sosno
 Cadrans Solaires Sundials Coaraze (© Keith Salvesen)
Cadrans Solaires . Ceramic Sundials . Coaraze . Provence – Sacha Sosno

“BEN” – BENJAMIN VAUTIER (2008)

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Cadrans Solaires . Ceramic Sundials . Coaraze . Provence – Benjamin Vautier
 Cadrans Solaires Sundials Coaraze (© Keith Salvesen)
Cadrans Solaires . Ceramic Sundials . Coaraze . Provence – Benjamin Vautier

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Cadrans Solaires . Ceramic Sundials . Coaraze . Provence

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Cadrans Solaires . Ceramic Sundials . Coaraze . Provence

Cadrans Solaires . Ceramic Sundials . Coaraze . Provence – Benjamin Vautier
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ST GEORGES de BOSCHERVILLE . NORMANDY – a complex modern sundial

St Georges de Boscherville Sundial 1

LES CADRANS SOLAIRES DE ST GEORGES de BOSCHERVILLE

This decorative sundial – one of two – is something rather special. It is both elegant and complex, and must have taken a long time to devise and lay out accurately. It stands in the extensive grounds of the fine Abbey Church of St Georges de Boscherville in Normandy. I managed to get the last small pamphlet in the Abbey bookshop. Even then I failed to understand the sundial properly, and not simply because of my rusty but workable French. I’m not even going to attempt to describe the dial, but it was easy to photograph in detail in its picturesque setting, and I have included a shot of the explanatory plaque at the end for the science-minded.

One fact I learnt is that until WWII, France was on Greenwich Meantime. During the occupation, the Germans changed the time zone to Central European time, a practice that has remained ever since.

St Martin de Boscherville Sundial 1.1 1
St Georges de Boscherville Sundial 1.1. 1
St Georges de Boscherville Sundial 1.1. 2
St Georges de Boscherville Sundial 1.1. 3
St Martin de Boscherville Sundial 1. 1
St Georges de Boscherville Sundial 1.1. 4
St Georges de Boscherville Sundial 1.1. 5
St Georges de Boscherville Sundial 1.1. 6
St Georges de Boscherville Sundial 1.1. 7
St Georges de Boscherville Sundial 1.1. 8

GSS Category: Cadran Solaire Sphérique / Spherical Dial

All photos: Keith Salvesen

VERTICAL SUNDIAL AT ST GEORGES de BOSCHERVILLE

LINK

The Abbey in 1700

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PONTE VECCHIO . FLORENCE – ‘ UNEXPECTED TIMES’: A C14 SUNDIAL

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‘ UNEXPECTED TIMES’: A SUNDIAL ON THE PONTE VECCHIO

This article was written a while back, in the pre-Covid era. Now I have a sundial site up and running, this dial and some others from Florence have a new space.

Florence in January.  -8°C at night, zero during the day – but sunny enough in the middle of the day to be able to have coffee or even lunch outside. Apart from the Uffizi, no queues for anywhere. Most significant places on the tourist trail almost to oneself. Despite the cold, there is no frost: the air is so dry that the pavements, piazzas and even the cars are quite clear of frozen white crystals. By the river I caught the electric flash of a male kingfisher flying up from the water to an overhanging bush, his hunting perch. I watched him as he scanned the water below, occasionally diving down and returning to the same branch. Twice, I could see the glint of a tiny fish in his beak. 

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Over the years I don’t know how often I have crossed the Ponte Vecchio – or even simply walked to the mid-point to admire the views up and down river from the open areas between the pricey shops. This time I was walking the length of the Vasari corridor that connects the Palazzo Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti on the other side of the Arno. A section runs straight over the bridge and then passes across the facade of Santa Felicita, into which the Medici family could sneak from the corridor to a large private balcony for spiritual refreshment. Passing the middle of the west side of the bridge, in the ‘tourist photo op’ gap where Cellini’s bust adds to the photogenic view, I have never before looked upwards.

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Here, on the roof of a shop, is an ancient sundial, supported by a white marble pillar. An eroded and almost illegible engraving below the pillar records that in 1333, floods caused the bridge to collapse and that “twelve years later, as pleased the Commune, it was rebuilt with this ornamentation”. The sundial itself, with its columnar divisions reminiscent of a rose window, marks the CANONICAL HOURS. The gnomon’s shadow indicates the hour of the day. If the sundial is the ‘ornamentation’ to which the inscription refers, then it is around 650 years old.

If you look closely, you’ll see, halfway up the south face of the hexagonal column, a lizardsundial-ponte-vecchio-florence-1

Seeing the sundial for the first time ever, yet in such a familiar place was a reminder that Florence is a city that demands great attention as one walks through the streets. Many buildings, even unassuming ones, have fine adornments high up that will catch the eye… but only if you are looking out for them. 

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L’ÉGLISE DE ST PIERRE . TOUQUES . NORMANDY – Early Sundial

St Pierre . Touques . Normandy

L’ÉGLISE DE ST PIERRE . TOUQUES . NORMANDY

A simple Romanesque church, the oldest in Calavados, dating from mid C11 with subsequent additions. There is scant information online – a few notes converted from French to English. Over the centuries the church was damaged by battles, by lightning strike, and sundry other misfortunes. One source notes In the 17th century the nave was amputated. By late C18 the church was abandoned and in C19 designated a Historic Monument. In C20 it was adapted as a cultural space for concerts and art exhibitions.

DIAL

This large dial is above the entrance doorway. It has roman numerals and a cross key decoration. There is no gnomon. The lower half is quite eroded. Mortar repair has been carried out rather enthusiastically. There is no date, and it is hard to determine how old the dial is. St Pierre was disused by 1800 so the dial, under its time-worn lintel, seems unlikely to have been added later. On the other hand there’s a sense that the present dial is a replacement for an older one. But a great deal older than the final one shown here.

St Pierre . Touques . Normandy – gnomon-less sundial of uncertain age

For comparison, the dial below is in Colmar (quite near Strasbourg). It never saw 1582.

GSS Category: Old Dial

Photos: Keith Salvesen; CC

RUSSBOROUGH HOUSE . WICKLOW . COURTYARD GATEWAY SUNDIAL

Russborough House . Wicklow . Ireland – Courtyard Gateway Sundial

RUSSBOROUGH HOUSE . Co WICKLOW . IRELAND – COURTYARD GATEWAY SUNDIAL

Russborough House . Wicklow . Ireland – Courtyard Gateway Sundial

Russborough House, built mid C18 for Joseph Leeson, is one of Ireland’s finest Georgian houses. Set in a large estate in the Wicklow Mountains, the house is renowned for its outstanding art collections (see http://www.russborough.ie/art).

The pleasing and straightforwardly solid gateway to the Courtyard has a most interesting angled sundial with no part of it in an expected place. One consequence of its position is that the graduations are notably complex. The main photo in the gallery below shows this far better than I can explain it.

It is clearly not an old dial. I have seen one photograph that suggests that at some time it has been painted blue. I need to investigate further and will add the details if I can find a date for the dial.

GSS Category: Modern Dial

All photos: Keith Salvesen

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

ST GEORGES DE BOSCHERVILLE . NORMANDY – VERTICAL DIAL

St Georges de Boscherville . Normandy . Vertical Sundial . Keith Salvesen
St Georges de Boscherville . Normandy . Vertical Sundial

The beautiful C12 Abbey of St Georges de Boscherville in Normandy is very much in the Michelin ‘vaut le voyage’ category. Advantage has been taken of the extensive abbey grounds to display innovative bee-hives and an excellent display of modern sundials. The most complex will feature here in due course. Meanwhile, enjoy this attractive sundial with its cleverly effective gnomon.

St Georges de Boscherville . Normandy . Vertical Sundial . Keith Salvesen
St Georges de Boscherville . Normandy . Vertical Sundial
St Georges de Boscherville . Normandy . Vertical Sundial . Keith Salvesen
St Georges de Boscherville . Normandy . Vertical Sundial

The motto Tant ici passerent le temps passé nous passons means roughly ‘So much past time has passed here; we (also) pass’. It sounds better in the original.