The sundials in Barga – v 3.0

The sundials in Barga

As the lockdown rules are gradually relaxed people are starting to once again arrive in Barga.

It is noticeable by the way they walk through the city which of them have arrived for the first time.

For the inhabitants of the city very little is actually noticed above two or three metres as people generally look straight ahead but first-time visitors are always looking up.

After all, this is a mediaeval walled city with some beautiful buildings, palazzi and villas.

This weekend a group arrived with the specific intention of looking for, photographing and documenting some things which for most Barghigiani are invisible – the sundials.


“Sine Sole Sileo” –  without the sun I don’t speak, I can’t give information.

The classic motto of the sundial, reminds us with three simple words how important the union between sun and time measurement is.


One of the places where they visited was up at the Civic Museum by the Duomo to photograph the remains of a sundial which was first installed on the outside of the Palazzo Pretorio back in 1750 by the engineer Gio.Giorgio Kindt “professore di Meridiane”.

All that remains now is the gnomone- the part of a sundial that casts a shadow. When the sundial was working there was a vertical sheet of marble pointing down from the gnomone where the cast shadow would mark out the hour.

Renovations on the museum of the years has also twisted slightly the column holding the gnomone, making it a few degrees out of line with the North.

Nell’Archivio del Comune di Barga si è trovata, alla pagina 27 del volume “Filza lettere e affari al tempo di Messer Pier Francesco Frullani Cancelliere provvisorio di Barga dal primo aprile 1750 al 15 novembre 1752 n. 16 (filza n.14)”, la minuta di una lettera che si riferisce direttamente alla meridiana posta sul Palazzo Pretorio. In tale lettera viene comunicato al Soprassindaco dei Nove, a Firenze, che il 13 settembre 1750 giunse a Barga il signor Gio.Giorgio Kindt, professore di Meridiane, accompagnato da uno scalpellino.

Some history of sundials
The earliest sundials known from the archaeological record are shadow clocks (1500 BC or BCE) from ancient Egyptian astronomy and Babylonian astronomy. Presumably, humans were telling time from shadow-lengths at an even earlier date, but this is hard to verify.

In roughly 700 BC, the Old Testament describes a sundial—the “dial of Ahaz” mentioned in Isaiah 38:8 and 2 Kings 20:11. The Roman writer Vitruvius lists dials and shadow clocks known at that time in his De architectura. A canonical sundial is one that indicates the canonical hours of liturgical acts. Such sundials were used from the 7th to the 14th centuries by the members of religious communities.

The Italian astronomer Giovanni Padovani published a treatise on the sundial in 1570, in which he included instructions for the manufacture and laying out of mural (vertical) and horizontal sundials.

Giuseppe Biancani’s Constructio instrumenti ad horologia solaria (c. 1620) discusses how to make a perfect sundial.