Sunday, November 20, 2011

Arab astronomer(s) on the Astronomical Clock of Lund Cathedral

by Salman Hameed

While in Lund, I had a chance to experience the announcement of Noon-time via a 15th century astronomical clock inside the spectacular Lund Cathedral. This is a pretty elaborate mechanical clock and twice a day, music flows out (two small figures raise their trumpets to give us the impression that it is them who are responsible for the music), followed by a procession of seven figures paying tribute to Mary and the baby Jesus. The central figure in the clock is Saint Lawrence, and we even have Cronos - the Greek god of time and cyclic movements to point out the exact time. Oh - and this whole thing starts when two knights at the top of the clock announce the time by clanking their swords equal to the hour of time. Unfortunately, one of the knights lost his sword the week before my visit (it must be a boring task doing it every day at the same time) and so...he was just waving his empty hand.

A few pictures would help. First, here is the cathedral from outside:

Here is the clock. The dueling knights are at the top. The top half of the clock gives information about sunrise and sunset times, solstices and equinoxes. There are also 4 figures at each corner. These are astronomers. Fascinatingly, they are thought to be (clockwise from top left corner): 1) Alfonso X, king of Leon and Castile (1221-84), 2) Ptolemy, Greek astronomer from Alexandria (2nd century CE), 3) Hali, an Arab scientist whose identity is uncertain, and 4) Albumaser, astrologer from Baghdad (787-886 CE).

Below is a close-up of the procession:

While over there, I also learned about a legend associated with the Cathedral. According to the legend, Finn the Giant built the Cathedral - but then due to a self-inflicted wound, he turned into stone (here is Wiki's help on this legend). Today, you can see this giant in the crypt (pic below). Looking at the giant's relatively small size, I think these Scandinavians call him a giant perhaps only sarcastically.


Aiysha said...

Been living in Sweden my whole life and didnt know about this cathedral! Thanks for the share. Astronomers fascinate me, now I know where im headed for my next day out of town.

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