The orientation of cistercian churches in Wales: A cultural astronomy case study

Authors: Parracho Silva, F., Brady, B. and Gunzburg, D.

Journal: Citeaux: Commentarii Cistercienses

Volume: 67

Issue: 3-4

ISSN: 0774-4919

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Authors: Brady, B., Gunzburg, D. and Silva, F.

Journal: Citeaux

Volume: 67

Issue: 3-4

Pages: 275-302

ISSN: 0009-7497

This paper considers how the union of sun, landscape, and architecture contributed to the siting of Welsh Cistercian abbeys. From August 2014 to March 2016 the authors surveyed and measured the orientation of all Cistercian churches with extant foundations in Wales, as well as the elevations of their surrounding landscapes. Using methodologies drawn from cultural astronomy, analysis of this data revealed that through the intentional orientating of the abbey within the local topography, each church formed a relationship to the sun's light on theologically significant days. Other notable observations include the emphasis on sunsets and the west, the focus on the astronomical equinox rather than the Julian calendar equinox, and the solar position on Michaelmas and/or Saint David's Day. The implications of these results for wider debates in the field of Cistercian studies are then discussed.

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