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.
RUSSBOROUGH HOUSE . Co 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.
Céret lies south of Perpignan, in the foothills of the Pyrenees quite close to the Spanish border. The Hermitage is a short distance to the north. The modern art museum in Céret has many works by Picasso, including sculpture and ceramics; and by other famous artists of the period.
This enjoyably rustic sundial is painted directly onto the facade of the C13 chapel (restoration C18). It is intriguing for the way in which the radials are moored, carefully graduated, on the diagonal of the dial face. The arrow gnomon forms part of the opposite diagonal. As an amateur, to me the design of the dial looks quite complicated, especially the calculation of the angle and distance between 11 & noon.
I am still trying to work out the inscription at the top. It seems to be ‘Ultimum’, which could be a neat Latin way of saying something like ‘To the end of Time / Jusqu’ à la fin du temps’
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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
DEDICATION † ST THOMAS à BECKET [also ST THOMAS of CANTERBURY] – earliest religious mention DB 1086; building dates from C13 & C15, with C19 restoration
LISTING † GRADE II*
LOCATION † Six miles N. of Sherborne, six miles W. of Wincanton. One of nine ‘Camelot’ churches; situated close to the steep stone track that leads to the impressive iron-age hill fort Cadbury Castle, with supposed (actual?) links to King Alfred. Serious walking country. 51.0277 / -2.5269 / ST631254
DIAL † Visited by DEH on April 24th, 1914:
172. This dial is on the s.e. corner of the nave. It is 3 feet 11 inches above the ground, the noonline is 4 inches in length, the stylehole is 7/8 of an inch in depth by 1/2 an inch in diameter, and the aspect is s. by 30° e. Type 3
DEH further notes: ‘the noonline in this dial is considerably out of the perpendicular. This is caused by the stone not facing due s. by as much as 30°’ (see large image in Gallery for the angled pocked noon radial)
NOTES † In the Churchyard stands a small armillary sphere dated 1929, on a slender column. The memorial inscription relates to Robert Read, ‘Ironmaster and Ornithologist’, with a charming and original dedication that I will post in other pages (armillary spheres, mottos) in due course
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.
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.
This handsome modern set of dials was installed in 1963 as part of the 400th anniversary celebration of the college’s re-foundation by John Caius. There are 6 vertical sundials, arranged in 3 pairs placed round the hexagonal tower. They were designed by astronomer and Fellow, Dr Message, and the Junior Bursar Dr Powell. The bronze dial faces are painted with vitreous enamel. They replace the original set of sundials dating from 1557, of which only traces remained.
There is something very satisfying about this set of dials. The symmetry, the proportions, the materials, and the design all seem to work in harmony. Cambridge colleges have many sundials between them, many original and ancient (Queen’s College sundial is a perfect example). Of the modern dials, the Gate of Honour is adorned by arguably the finest.
The college has three gates that represent the stages of academic life: matriculation, entered through the Gate of Humility; undergraduate life, with regular passage through the Gate of Virtue during a student’s career; and finally graduation, with students passing through the Gate of Honour to the Senate House to receive their degrees.
Gonville and Caius College is one of the oldest colleges of Cambridge University. It was founded in 1348 by Edmund Gonville, who has suffered the cruel fate of rarely being mentioned nowadays; the college is almost invariably referred to simply as ‘Caius’, after John Caius, the man who re-founded the college in 1557 at a time when it had fallen on hard times.