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North Mymms 'mass dial' found

North Mymms parish church A religious sundial, dating back to 1584, has been located on the wall of St Mary's Parish Church, North Mymms, following information unearthed by the local history society. (Click on images to reveal full-size version. Note: They will be slow to download)

A student in France mailed this site on Friday, August 23, asking for help in tracing what Alexandra Bosc described as, "a design or a carving, dating from the 16th century, with gilded frets, a sky fringed by clouds and sprinkled with stars, perhaps with the moon in its four phases."

Alex, who is studying art history at the Sorbonne in Paris and carrying out research on astrological iconography in English art during the 16th century, believed the artwork was in North Mymms and posted a message on this site's Forum asking for help locating it.

The mass dial North Mymms parish church A call to the vicar drew a blank, as did an examination of the interior of the church. Then John Harris, of the North Mymms Local History Society, joined the search and dug out two books about local churches. During his research he discovered references to a 'Mass Dial' at St Mary's, North Mymms. Although it is clear this isn't the work Alex is looking for it is still an interesting historical find in its own right, which few seemed to know existed.

According to John, the book describes it as; "a form of sundial, used to set the time of services by checking the points of a shadow made by the sun crossing a central rod which then followed lines etched on the stonework of the church wall; the hour for mass was marked by a deeper groove."

Close up of the mass dial North Mymms parish church John said another book dated the 'mass dial' as 1584, and said it was located on the south side of the St Mary's Church.

After an examination of the exterior of the church the dial was found carved in a corner stone on the south wall. Unfortunately the dial has been damaged over the years and the central rod is missing, but the date, 1584, can be clearly identified (although not so clear in these photographs) and the deep grooves indicating mass times can be seen.

Meanwhile, Alexandra Bosc is still seeking help in his search for the 16th century astrological iconography for his research. Alex says that, according to a reference book, a version of the art work appears on the soffit of an Elizabethan tomb at Ockenden Church, Essex and a similar design appears at North Mymms.

If anyone from the church knows whether there is a tomb with this art work on please mail forum.

All pictures were taken using a Fujifilm FinePix 4900Zoom digital camera courtesy of Fujifilm. All have been heavily compressed to help download. Click on the images to reveal full-size version which will be slow to download.

August 24, 2002

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Cosmological design mystery - August 23, 2002

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