Medieval Monday: What time is it?
"Salisbury Cathedral" by stevecadman is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Happy Medieval Monday! I always have a wonderful time exploring the Middle Ages. Recently, I've become fascinated by some of the inventions. Continuing with last week's "timely" theme, did you know that the mechanical clock was a medieval invention? That surprised me. I'm not sure when I thought it had been invented, but certainly not as far back as the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century.
As I've mentioned before, when I think of the medieval era, I tend to think of an agrarian society, not an urban one. For the medieval farmer, the sun moving from dawn to dusk was sufficient for calculating time. Certainly, in Tremors Through Time, it was all Lachlann needed during his medieval work day.
The sun hung midway between heaven and earth, the great loch silver beneath it, as Lachlann An Damh plowed his field.
But life in the cities ran on an altogether different schedule. So, too, did the monasteries that were popping up all over Europe. Monastic life centered around the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours. Moreover, wasting time was frowned upon. Knowing the exact time or hour became increasingly important. Churches and monasteries began developing and installing clocks. As church bells rang, merchants took note. Setting regular business hours suited them, too, as well as the variety of other establishments and venues found in urban areas.
The mechanical clock (gears, weights, and pulleys) was not the first clock used to tell time. Since ancient times, sundials, obelisks, water clocks, hour glasses, and a variety of other ingenious methods had been used.
But while surely better than nothing, they were not as dependable as the mechanical clock would be.
The mechanical clocks were well-made. One of the oldest -- arguably, the oldest -- mechanical clocks in the world that still works is in Salisbury Cathedral, It was built around 1382 and originally placed in the cathedral's bell tower. When that tower was demolished, the clock was moved to the Cathedral, then eventually set aside to be replaced. It was rediscovered in 1928, ultimately restored, and now on display.
"Salisbury Clock" by Wyrmworld is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
These clocks changed the way time was ordered and therefore, often to no small degree, the way people lived. They remain one of the most impressive inventions of medieval times.
Personally, I still favor the sun-up, sundown approach. But that's mostly because I detest alarm clocks.
For more medieval fun, be sure to visit these medieval ladies' websites:
For a delightfully medieval man, be sure to check out Tremors Through Time. It's set to launch July 6 and available for pre-order now.
Absolutely love this post on medieval clocks, Anastasia! This reminds me of the Vikings and how they used a sunstone to locate the sun in the sky. Only a few more weeks until your book releases to the world!
Oh, Mary, thank you. And sunstones! How did I miss that method? Your knowledge of history always amazes me. And yes, I can hardly believe that it's almost launch day for Tremors Through Time. Your inspiration and encouragement during this journey have and continue to mean so much to me. Thank you.
Fascinating report, Anastasia! The whole concept of marking time throughout the ages is so interesting! Speaking of time--it's drawing near for your book release. I can't wait!
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