Clocks and Rituals

Clocks are seen as a source of control, but the early clocks in churches were huge – at times the dial was 2 metres wide, showing hours, days, lunar phases, planetary positions high and low tides, as well as automata and music with the bells striking. Clocks were not just for telling time, they employed many skilled tradesmen, such as metal workers, sculptors, painters, etc. The Norwich clock of 1321-5 cost a whopping £52, the equivalent of maybe a million today.

This is a rare account of how the clocks were used in church celebrations, from the Rule of John of Hereford, in the 13th century when most religious houses had clocks in Europe:
“To be presented to God and the Holy Martyr Alban at the High Altar, with ..shawms sounding with the horologe, the tapers lighted round the altar and the throne uncovered. “

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