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Precision instruments

A gallery is devoted to these instruments in the left wing of the Cloister. The majority of them are the astronomical instruments, surveying instruments and clocks that were manufactured in the earlier Belgian provinces from the 16th century to the beginning of the 19th.

The world in two or three dimensions

The Leuven atelier that supplied the greatest Renaissance princes with terrestrial globes, graphometers and sundials is well represented here. One of the masterpieces of the atelier is the extraordinary armillary sphere, made by Gauthier Arscenius in 1575. With all its rings and hoops, it gives a three-dimensional view of the universe as observed at that time. The graphometers, celestial spheres reduced to a two-dimensional disc, enable the position of the stars in the heavens to be calculated, as well as the various astronomical phenomena to be measured.

Armillary sphere, brass
Armillary sphere, Gauthier Arscenius, 1575, Leuven (Belgium), brass

Preparing a map of the world

In the gallery, discover the old instruments used for triangulation; they look like the instruments used by Mercator to draw the first geographical maps: trigonometer, circular protractor and graphometer. Discover, too, the full instrument case carried by 17th-century engineers in the field.

Drawing instruments, gilt brass and steel
Drawing instruments, 17th cent., Southern Netherlands (?), gilt brass and steel

Calculating time

Besides a few clocks in the chronological circuits, there is also a specific clock section, which includes a comprehensive collection of valuable timepiece jewellery. Also on display are a number of automatic clocks ascribed to the Liège clockmaker Hubert Sarton.

Small octagonal clock, silver, brass and rock crystal
Small octagonal watch, 17th cent., Brussels, silver, brass and rock crystal

Sophie Balace