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Ad Horologia Solaria

Time is a funny concept, isn’t it? The days of the year are counted by the hour, and there are 24 hours to the day, give or take a few minutes. Next Sunday, however, the day will only be 23 hours long. March 27th will mark the beginning of Summer Time or Daylight Saving Time, and at the stroke of 02h00 on Sunday morning we will lose an hour by mutual decree of the DST (Daylight Saving Time) lobby. Real time and decreed time may well differ from one another.

Time to talk about sundials, then. The history of sundials is a fascinating subject, as is the history of sundials in Mallorca. The world’s earliest known sundials appear to be the obelisks from ancient Egypt (3500 BC) and shadow clocks from Babylonian astronomy (1500 BC). In Mallorca, there were no clocks or watches, a few centuries ago. Monasteries here had a device to indicate the day’s four prayer times. Other than for praying, time was not an issue in years gone by, here. Campesinos (farmers) went out to the fields according to the light of the sun, or as the case might have been, in accordance with the position of the moon. Finally, during the 16th century, sundials were introduced to Mallorca.

I have elaborated on Mallorcan sundials in previous blog entries – search for sundials on this blog’s search function if you want to know more – and I shall probably continue to do so again, now and then. For today, let me show you one of the most peculiar sundial design I have come across in Mallorca. The sundial adorns the west-facing façade of the Església Parroquial de Sant Pere (parish church) in Petra (see photo). Sundials would normally grace a southerly position. It appears as if this sundial’s plate was placed on the church façade almost as an after-thought, sometime in 1732 or perhaps later. It certainly is one of the oldest remaining sundials on the island. The dial indicates the correct time, even though I think it could do with a bit of a clean-up and a face-lift.

Those of you who might want to know more about sundials in Mallorca, let me link you to Carpe Diem, the expert website on the subject (in Castellano only).

The photo was taken in Petra, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: March 10th, 2011. The time was 17:21:31.

1 reply »

  1. Seeing the sundials on the church walls, particularly the one that we saw that was recently uncovered (Esglèsia de Santa Teresa; MDPB), was a highlight for me during our tours of Palma. Such a neat treat to see! 🙂

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