A COMPLEX SUNDIAL AT LLUC MONASTERY, MALLORCA


Multiple Vertical Sundial, Lluc Monastery, Mallorca (Keith Salvesen)

The secluded Monastery of Lluc is situated near Escorca in the Tramuntana mountains of Mallorca. It dates from the c13, and is famous for its Black Madonna, the discovery of which is said to have led to the monastery’s foundation . It is a place of pilgrimage. The location is remote and peaceful, though inevitably the monastery has become an essential stop on the tourist and coach party trail. We returned there recently, not having visited Mallorca for more than 20 years. The buildings were much as we remembered, but the parking and visitor arrangements were more regimented and complex. Before, one just drove down the narrow road from the main mountain road and parked in the forecourt area close to the buildings. Now, everything is (unsurprisingly) geared to a daily mass influx of people and their needs for sustenance and souvenirs. We were pleased to see that it is still possible to stay at Lluc in one of small rooms under a long covered walk where the monks once slept. You can reach the Monastery’s website – and even book a room – HERE.

Multiple Vertical Sundial, Lluc Monastery, Mallorca (Keith Salvesen)A short walk from the monastery, one can climb a path to a calvary and some great views. Along the way is a an amazing multiple vertical sundial. It was designed by Rafael Soler, and carved in 1991 and displays with some style the evolution of sundials. There are two historical dials, one central solar dial, and two modern dials.

CANONICAL HOURS – LATINATE

This dial simply records the 3-hourly canonical divisions of the liturgical day (as with the early medieval mass / scratch dials), starting with midnight (top) and working counterclockwise round a central gnomon. Multiple Vertical Sundial, Lluc Monastery, Mallorca (Keith Salvesen)

CANONICAL HOURS – BABYLONIAN / MALLORQUIN

A more complex dial, starting at noon (XXIV) through to 21.00, and including the months and the signs of the Zodiac.

Multiple Vertical Sundial, Lluc Monastery, Mallorca (Keith Salvesen)

TEMPS VERTADER – TRUE SOLAR TIME

The centre sundial shows true solar time. The polar gnomon (triangular) shows the hours, the pointer shows the date with the declination lines. The inscription MULIER AMICTER SOLE (Woman Clothed by the Sun) references an account in the Book of Revelations.

 Multiple Vertical Sundial, Lluc Monastery, Mallorca (Keith Salvesen)

MEAN TIME DIAL (SUMMER /AUTUMN)

The two right-hand sundials are complementary and each covers two seasons.  I think this must mean that for a particular month, one will be reliable as to time and the ‘off-season’ one will not.

Multiple Vertical Sundial, Lluc Monastery, Mallorca (Keith Salvesen)

MEAN TIME DIAL (SUMMER /AUTUMN)

Multiple Vertical Sundial, Lluc Monastery, Mallorca (Keith Salvesen)

The creation of these dials was obviously a labour of love and skill combined. There’s doubtless plenty more to be said about these sundials and the splendid ensemble but I have decided not to get too technical – indeed, I don’t understand enough to do so anyway. Apologies for the rather washed out appearance of the images. This was operator error – I had the camera on the wrong settings and didn’t realise until later…

Credits: Props to arby101ca and lumbricus, members of a geocaching & waymarking website called Groundspeak. They hiked to Lluc (respect!) and wrote informatively about these dials. I found relatively little elsewhere.

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‘UNEXPECTED TIMES’: A SUNDIAL ON THE PONTE VECCHIO


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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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Since I was 17 I have been lucky enough to visit Florence quite often, not least because Mrs RH regularly goes there on business, and I am a keen ‘trailing spouse’. 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 opp’ 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 at the pillar, 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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