The Longest Day of the Year

June 21 is the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, the day the sun reaches its farthest point north of the equator. Since the sun is higher in the sky, today receives more sunlight than any other day of the year.

The summer solstice was an important event in many ancient cultures, including the builders of Stonehenge, a megalithic monument in Wiltshire, England. Constructed between 2500 and 2000 BCE, the ring of stones we see today is perfectly aligned with the sunrise on the summer solstice.

caponigro_paul_65_2001_5Paul Caponigro, Stonehenge, 1978 (65.2001.5)

While standing inside the center of the ring on the summer solstice, one can view the sunrise directly over the Heel Stone, the large marker visible between the two central posts in the photograph above.

caponigro_paul_65_2001_10Paul Caponigro, Stonehenge, 1978 (65.2001.10)

When renowned landscape photographer Paul Caponigro visited Stonehenge in the 1970s, he was moved. He wrote in his portfolio, “An indefinable force persists and pervades. The effect is to silence one with wonder.” He strove to capture the site’s spiritual energy through his photography.

caponigro_paul_65_2001_2Paul Caponigro, Stonehenge, 1978 (65.2001.2)

“We may never know for certain why ancient man assembled these stones,” Caponigro wrote, “but man’s humanity can sense the nobility and feel the aspirations that materialized into a great internal idea.” His work expresses both the aura of mystery surrounding the site and the deep sense of connection to a people long past.

caponigro_paul_65_2001_9Paul Caponigro, Stonehenge, 1978 (65.2001.9)

Stonehenge remains a place of power and pilgrimage even today as people gather to watch the sunrise over the Heel Stone and celebrate the beginning of summer, the longest day of the year.

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