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Rare Pulpit Hour Glasses

Museale Kanzeluhr


Austria or German, around 1680

carved birch wood, remains of original paint, open-work insets made of papier-mâché, rotatable mounting, four original mouth-blown vials
11 ¼ in

Multi-part hourglasses, so-called pulpit clocks, come from a time when church sermons often lasted for hours, keeping the faithful away from their work for just as long, much to the displeasure of the nobility. It was for this reason that these special timepieces, usually consisting of four vials, were placed in the immediate vicinity of the pulpit in order to regulate the duration of the sermon. A central opening in the backplate allowed them to be mounted rotatable so the priest could turn them at the start of the sermon. The individual vials differing speed of sweep of sand allowed for subdivision into smaller temporal units.

Only a few of these unusual hourglasses have survived down the centuries – one of them is this museum-quality pulpit clock from the second half of the 17th century. It consists of four original vials filled with light-colored sand and a gracefully carved case with small, twisted columns and elaborate, open worked ornamental papier-maché applications.
The Berlin City Museum has a small collection of comparable pulpit clocks (inv. no. VI 858, VI 681, KH 98/242 UH).

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