Time is everywhere and dominates our lives. And yet time has not always been experienced in the same way. Our experience of time is intimately related to our worldview. In this room, we reflect on the concept of ‘time’, inspired by an extraordinary masterpiece: the Calendar Dial.
When you enter the room, you immediately come face to face with the Calendar Dial. We first notice the many detailed and colourful pictures on the dial. But this impressive museum piece originally served a functional and not a decorative purpose. It was the dial of a clock with an integrated calendar and astrological elements. The mechanism itself is lost, but fortunately the dozens of painted tableaux on the oak panel are very well preserved. The calendar dial has a series of concentric circles that each have a purpose. They range from a circle depicting the days or months of the year to one that tells you which planet determines your life, behaviour or profession. If you were born under the influence of Saturn, for example, you were doomed to go through life as a beggar or a cripple.
But why were all these elements given such a prominent place on the Calendar Dial? To explain its many differences with our 21st-century clocks, we must fast forward through time. The Calendar Dial dates from circa 1500. In those days, time was conceived as a cycle that constantly repeated itself. Astrology was also very popular and people assumed that the planets influenced every aspect of their lives. This calendar dial thus provides a wealth of information about medieval thought, one essential characteristic of which was the seamless unity of human beings, time, nature, and the universe. In God’s creation, everything was connected to everything else.
The importance of astronomy later waned and it was reduced to mere superstition. Starting in the 18th century, the cyclical notion of time was also gradually replaced by a linear perspective. This caused a cultural revolution, leading people to discover and appreciate their history and the importance of their own heritage.
Clock! Dark, terrifying, unflappable God. of which the hand threatens us, saying: "Remember!” Charles Baudelaire, L’horloge, Les Fleurs du mal, 1857