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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CÉRET . FRANCE – ST FERRÉOL HERMITAGE

St Ferréol Hermitage. Céret . France

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.

St Ferréol Hermitage, Céret, France – sundial (2004)

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’

GSS Category: Modern Dial

All photographs: 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.

CHAVOT-COURCOURT. ÉPERNAY. FRANCE . CADRAN DE MASSE MÉDIÉVALE

Eglise de Chavot-Courcourt . Epernay . Marne . Scratch Dial

LOCATION This handsome church is set scenically in the middle of extensive vineyards on all sides, a few miles south-east of Épernay. It is a notable distance from the nearest house. The church dates from 1202. The romanesque tower, nave, transept and apse were built later, around 1560. 49°00′16″N  3°55′50″E

DIAL The dial – which from a distance looks rustic – is in a prominent position carved into the stone lintel above the side-door, a very clear indicator of the progress of the day for the locals working in the fields. It is in excellent condition, perhaps thanks to its high location and to the clean air. The radials are spaced with some precision. A narrow double circle is supplemented by a less clear or eroded wider circle. There are several dots in plausible places; conversely, few if any dots on the rest of the lintel. My amateur guess is that the relative sophistication of the dial suggests that it was cut later than the date of the doorway. Any views on this are welcome – there’s a comment box below.

Eglise de Chavot-Courcourt . Epernay . Marne . Scratch Dial – close-up

GSS Category – Scratch Dial

VILLEFRANCHE-DE-CONFLENT: DOUBLE DIAL

Double sundial, Villefranche-de-Conflent, Pyrénées-Orientales

VILLEFRANCHE-DE-CONFLENT is a small medieval walled town in Catalan country. It is watched over by Fort Liberia, one of VAUBAN‘s massive defensive constructions in this historically strategic area. The town is charming, and additionally famous for being the start of the ‘Train Jaune’, a picturesque narrow-gauge railway that climbs high into the Pyrénées. The amazing altitude rise is from 1250 ft at Villefranche to 5000 ft at the track’s summit just above the village of Mont Louis (which has its own Vauban fort) 

The sundial above is high up on a house in the church square, next to the Mairie with its Catalan flag. It doesn’t exactly draw the eye and would be very easy to miss. Its overall appearance is endearingly wonky.

Villefranche-de-Conflent - Sundial

Villefranche-de-Conflent - Sundial

TWO DIALS IN ONE

The main dial is etched and painted on cement, with roman numerals that mark hours, halves and quarters. The long gnomon is attached beneath a small sculpted head from which sun rays radiate – a simple representation of a solar deity. Above the head can be seen numbers, of which only 11 and 8 can be made out with any certainty. Possibly, it is a date: the dial (which is not ancient) is otherwise undated and it is very hard to guess its age. I can find no explanation for the initials DS (top left, Gothic font) and ER (top right, normal font). 

The small dial-within-a-dial with graduated radials shows the hours only, with arabic numerals. The bent gnomon points straight down. I am unsure of its purpose as a supplementary – and rather overshadowed – dial on the same plane, but the overall effect is pleasing.

Villefranche-de-Conflent - Sundial

INSCRIPTION

The words “COM MES SOL FA MES BE ESCRIC” are Catalan and mean roughly “When it is sunny, I write (show the time) well”. This rather charming inscription was apparently added in around 2000 by the village pastor.

Credit: for information, Michel Lalos, who has compiled a comprehensive illustrated record of the sundials of the Pyrénées-Orientales.