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Sisters of Charity of Ottawa Sundials

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1 Sisters of Charity of Ottawa Sundials
Roger Bailey & Sister Louise Seguin SCO NASS 2008 St Louis, MO Jean-François Allard

2 Ottawa Parliament Ottawa, the Capital of Canada, is an interesting city with remarkable history. Visitors often miss the interesting details. Everyone ses the parliament buildings and sees the rivers

3 Ottawa Rivers Ottawa Hull, Quebec Gatineau River Ottawa River
Rideau River The Ottawa River was the original route west across Canada. At Ottawa the Gatineau comes in from the north (Quebec) and the Rideau from the south. It is a natural confluence of trade routes and determined the development of the city, Ottawa Hull, Quebec

4 Ottawa River Parliament
Lets take a quick tour starting on Parliament Hill. Just to the east is the Rideau Canal from Kingston on the great lakes and St Lawrence. Past the Chateau Laurier turn onto Sussex Drive passing the American Embassy, the National Art Gallery, the War museum and the Royal Mint. Sussex carries on to the residences of the Prime Ministers and Governor General but I am going to stop a the mint. When I travel, I look for sundials. My focus on the world is through sundials. An entry in Mayalls’ book “Sundials: Their Construction and Use” mentions a pair of sundials at the mint. This reference was in the early NASS registry. Parliament

5 But there are no dials on the mint
But there are no dials on the mint. Look across the street to Lower Town, the historic French part of Ottawa. Just down from The Cathedral Notre Dame is this building, the Motherhouse of the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa. What drew my attention was the pair of sundials on the corner of the historic limestone building.

6 These sundials, very much in the French tradition, seemed to be original, accurate and unique. At the time (mid 90’s) I just took a few pictures and sent the information to the NASS Registrar. This was primarily to correct the misinformation in the Registry noting corner dials on the Mint. The Mayalls got it wrong. The dials are across the street on the Sisters’ Motherhouse. I had no further information so the registration was incomplete. They are remarkable sundials and there must be an interesting history but I was a shy visitor and did not enquire further.

7 Sisters of Charity of Ottawa
Let me now introduce the co-author of this presentation, Sister Louise Seguin, Curator of the Heritage Site, the SCO Motherhouse. Here shown with a wax model of Mother Élisabeth Bruyère, foundress of the order. Sister Louise had written to correct the information in the NASS Registry and provide background information on the dials. We are collaborating on this presentation and future articles as she knows the history and I know sundials. The Sisters Of Charity of Ottawa congregation is an offshoot of the Grey Nuns, founded in 1737 in Montreal by Saint Marguerite d’Youville. The Grey Nuns are well known across Canada for their good works, civilizing a pioneering country. They built and operated missions, schools and hospitals across Canada. The Sisters of Charity of Ottawa are just one example of their contributions to our history and culture.

8 Bytown (Ottawa) Chronicles
1800 Lumberjacks’ bush camp on Ottawa River 1826 Col John By & Rideau Canal (St Lawrence River Bypass) 1828 Bytown founded: Construction, lumber and military camp Government Sundial erected on this site Lets look at the history of Ottawa. The initial settlement was the portage site on the Hull Quebec side of the river, an easier portage past the falls and rapids than the south side. 1800: The first lumberjacks arrived in the area an set up a bush camp. 1826: Colonel John By opens the Rideau Canada (date of foundation of Ottawa) 1828: The newly established village is named Bytown after Colonel By. A sundial was erected on what is now Parliament Hill. The dial pictured is not the original but a replacement in 1919. In that particular era, Bytown had a rather bad reputation. Located on the Ottawa River, at the center of a forestry industry, Bytown had a population of 6,000 inhabitants, of which two thirds were from England, Scotland, Ireland and from the province of Québec. The workers who opened the Canal and the lumbermen made of Bytown their favourite meeting place. Such a cosmopolitan area soon became the site for disorderly conduct initiated by racial and religious arguments and fights. Abuse of alcohol together with a lack of policemen to maintain order meant that Bytown was not a pleasant village to live in, certainly not to raise families in. The lack of schools and hospitals made the situation even worse. This is why Mgr Phelan, Bishop of Kingston and Pastor of Bytown, called upon Mgr Bourget, Bishop of Montréal, asking to send Oblate Priests and Grey Sisters of Montreal to come and help in Bytown.

9 Bytown (Ottawa) Chronicles
1845 Élisabeth Bruyère, SGM (Soeurs Grises de Montréal) arrived with 3 novices Built convent, school and hospital within a year 1847 Potato famine: Irish immigration and Typhus 1850 Motherhouse and sundials built 1857 Bytown became Ottawa and Capital of Canada 1867 Canadian Confederation 1845: February 20th marks the arrival of Élisabeth Bruyère, SGM (Soeurs Grises de Montréal – Grey Nuns of Montreal). She and three other Sisters, one postulant and one aspirant, came from Montreal, by sled, on the Ottawa River. Élisabeth was only 26 years old when she became the Foundress of The Grey Nuns in Bytown. 1847: The Typhus (yellow fever) epidemic occurred among the Irish immigrants. 1850: Motherhouse and sundials built 1857: Bytown is now called Ottawa and has become the Capital of the United Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada. Confederation in 1867 brought in the rest of what is now 10 provinces and three territories.

10 Jean-François Allard, OMI
1850 Fr. Allard from Briançon, France as spiritual advisor and teacher Taught religion, science, geography& mathematics, (geometry & gnomonics) Designed and built the sundials Bishop in 1851, Palestine and Natal 1850: Father Jean-François Allard, OMI (Oblate of Mary Immaculate) becomes Chaplain of the Mother House, built in 1850 at the corner of the Bruyère Street and Sussex Drive. He was the Sisters’ spiritual director and he also taught science in the new school. We owe to him the invention of the two mural sundials installed on the outer wall of the Mother House. They can still be seen on the building, corner of Bruyère Street and Sussex Drive, faithfully telling the time of day, after so many years. Source: 'Deschatelets Archives Ottawa‘, the Oblate Fathers, Ottawa.

11 Fr. Allard’s Sundials Constructed 1850-1851
Traditional French corner dials, simple and elegant Sundials are original, accurate and unique Oldest remaining corner dials in Canada Only historic corner dials outside Quebec

12 Séminaire St-Joseph Trois Rivieres, Quebec
Only other historical corner dial surviving Built in 1883, by l'abbé Raymond Caisse, préfêt des études Restored in 1930 Source: CCSQ Catalogue Source; Commission cadrans Solaires de Quebec,

13 Technical Analysis Fr. Allard’s SCO Sundials
Are the dials correct for the location & wall declination? Are the hour lines and gnomon correct? Do they tell the right time? Check the dial with modern techniques: Data, pictures, computers Overlay lines on pictures

14 N 32º 58º Latitude 45º 25’ 51” Longitude 75º 41’ 53’

15 Wall Declination S31.9ºW S58.1ºE

16 S 59º W The large west facing afternoon dial on the main street. Sussex Drive is gnomonically correct. The hour lines are right however the overlay for S 59º W fits better than 58.1º. The gnomon is unusual as it is in the meridian plane. The advantage is the co-latitude angle with the wall is true. The disadvantage is it is more difficult to set and keep correct than the normal perpendicular gnomon of the “substyle height” canted at the substyle distance.

17 Morning Dial: S 31º E Narrow dial on east side street
Constrained by corner & window Ovoid vs circle Hour lines are correct Gnomon set in meridian plan (latitude is true) Best fit S 31º E not S 31.9º E Excellent pictures by Stephen Blakeney Jan 2008

18 Time Checks: Date/Time Stamps
Pictures taken 3 Jan 08 at 2:44 to 2:46 pm EST Equation of Time –4’25” Longitude º -2’47” Corrected clock 2:38 solar West PM dial ~2:38 solar East AM dial ~2:38 solar Dial is correct as closely as it can be read

19 Gnomon Angles Gnomons seem not quite parallel. Perspective?
Easily bent from meridian plane

20 Fr. Allard’s SCO Sundials
The dial lines and gnomons are correct for the location & wall declination They tell true solar time Modern techniques are no better for designing a dial Fr Allard had an excellent artistic sense. The subdued colours and lack of ornamentation is right for the convent The narrow dial on the side street is appropriate to balance the perspective An excellent pair of sundials!


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