AAS 199th meeting, Washington, DC, January 2002
Session 40. HAD III: Some Controversies in the History of Astronomy
Special Session Oral, Monday, January 7, 2002, 2:00-3:30pm, State

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[40.01] Solar Orientation of Irish Early Christian Oratories

V.R. Tiede (Yale University)

The Hiberno-Latin literary metaphor of "Xpistus sol verus" (Christ the True Sun) finds an architectural analogue in the orientation of the single eastern window of Irish monastic stone chapels or oratories. The authorís field surveys in Ireland, Hebrides, Orkney and Shetlands revealed that the window of Irish rectangular dry stone oratories framed the rising solar disk on the Feast Days of selected saints of the Celtic Early Christian Church, AD 800-1100. The most frequent target skyline declinations were to sunrise on the Feast Days of St. Patrick (March 17th) and St. Aidan of Lindisfarne (August 31st). During the Early Christian period, St. Patrickís Day coincided with the Vernal Equinox, and heralded the Paschal Full Moon (i.e., Passover crucifixion) and Easter Sunday as proclaimed by Emperor Constantine at the Council of Nicaea (AD 325). St. Aidan of Lindisfarne (d. AD 651) inspired the Irish monks who, at the Synod of Whitby (AD 664), remained loyal to the Jewish 84-year cycle determining Passover and refused to replace it with the new orthodox 19-year computus for Easter adopted by the Roman Catholic Church (AD 527). Hypothetical affiliation between monastic communities whose oratories share common solar orientation, interior length/width ratios (e.g., 4:3 and 3:2) and units of measurement (e.g., Scottish ell, Coptic cubit, or Roman pes) is discussed. Grateful acknowledgement is made to the Michael D. Coe Fund and Augusta Hazard Fund of Yale University for research grant support in 1999.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: biletine@aol.com

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