Winding the Clock

Posted on 2015-08-24 by fp
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It probably only makes sense if you are familiar with Neal Stephenson’s Anathem. But if you do, you might understand why I took and enjoyed to wind the clock of a small church in the small village Schneverdingen. That is this one:

Peter-und-Paul-Kirche IMG 2066

Although it is not nearly looking as complicated as The Great Clock Stephenson describes to the Concent of Saunt Edhars. But climbing the stairs and ladders of an empty church tower at 10pm, then winding the cranks to pull the weights up that power the brass cogswheel construction in front of you, which in turn controls the bells one level above you and the clocks two levels atop of that is fascinating similar. And, although the architecture is much less complicated than anything I imagined from Stephenson’s description, this small village church is created and maintained by a community of dedicated people. One of which had given me this opportunity and a tour to the bell tower.

In this respect the similarities become obvious (and this is most probably true for most churches in the world) although this is not surprising as Stephenson probably got his inspiration directly from impressive churches and monasteries. Except from the fact that I did not go through a exhaustive liturgy to wind the clock, I simply had to turn a crank on three weights. But there definitely where brass cogwheels that comprised a simple yet controlled play of 4 different changes each hour and 12 different changes over half a day. I forgot to take a photograph because I was occupied to figure out how the single time-wheel controlled two wheels for the change ringing.

I then climbed up a comfortable stair to the bell chamber and I did so cautiously between them being rang. This is probably not that much interesting except if you then continue in comparable darkness upwards on a slightly suspect ladder to follow the shaft that drives the four clocks at the top of the tower. Or, almost at the top of the tower because the clocks are only three stories above the winding room.

The thing that always impresses me about churches is that they are almost always a the best architecture a community could muster. Building often takes multiple generations and you find fine details as well as materials and well thought of structures. For me it is strange to know that they are religious places, but taking them as a community-building effort makes them impressive. Having a special night tour through an empty church makes it slightly more special, as I can say now.