We have visual representation of the School of Arts and Sciences literally set in stone right in our new arts walk: the analemmatic sundial and labyrinth.
The Labyrinth represents a miniature replica of the 13th-century labyrinth featured on the floor of the great Gothic cathedral in Chartres, France. The medieval fascination with labyrinths was inspired by ancient prototypes, the most famous coming from the Greek mythological labyrinth of the Minotaur. The labyrinth also shares qualities with eastern mandalas as a symbol of sacred geometry. Gothic builders incorporated the labyrinth into many Catholic churches of Europe recasting the labyrinth as an instrument of pilgrimage and prayer. The pilgrim followed 11 winding circuits set inside four quadrants culminating in a rosette center. In this manner, the pilgrim was able to embark upon a spiritual journey to Jerusalem right in the local church structure itself.
The Analemmatic Sundial is a scientific construction based on a site’s location.Our sundial is located at Providence’s coordinates: 41.8 degrees N, 71.4 degrees W. It is interactive in nature (like the labyrinth) and dependent upon the individual standing on the proper seasons / months within it to cast a shadow of “true local time” (as opposed to standard mean time). The person physically becomes a part of the dial’s construction, which is different from a sundial with a built-in static gnomon. A further explanation of the sundial can be found here.
Both the sundial and labyrinth designs used originated in France in 1513 and the early 13th century, respectively. Mark Rapoza, the architects from SMMA, and Joan Branham worked together on the medieval labyrinth design and Laura LeClair from SMMA designed the sun dial. The incorporation of these artistic and scientific motifs in the visual arts district of campus not only connects Providence College to a long and rich tradition of sacred spaces, iconography, and scientific inquiry but provides a beautiful stopping point for admissions tours, gallery visitors, alumni, and current faculty, staff, and students.