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Astronomical Clock of Prague
Bonnie Moss (c)September,2013

Astronomical Clock of Prague   

A visit to Prague is not complete without a visit to the astronomical clock, surrounded by legends and stories. The oldest and most celebrated clock is on the side wall of the Old Town Hall. With glittering hands and a complex series of filigreed wheels, this ornamental timepiece doesn't merely mark the hours.

Symbols of the zodiac tell the course of the heavens. When the bell tolls, windows fly open and mechanical apostles, skeletons, and "sinners" begin a ritualistic dance of destiny.

When the clock strikes the hour, these figures of Vanity, Greed, Death and Desire come alive.Images around the clock:

Vanity represented with a mirror. Greed represented by a purse of money Death represented by a skeleton holding a bell Desire, represented by a Turkish holding a mandolin.

The Prague Astronomical Clock is one of the oldest European clocks of its kind. The first ever was made in Padua in 1344, a second one in Strassburg in 1354.The Prague Astronomical clock is unique in being the oldest of those where the original clockwork has been in operation from the beginning to the present time for six centuries The astrological dial shaped like as astrolab survives in the original form. Interestingly,the Clock showed exclusively astronomical data. At that time, there were no mechanical figures to entertain but only the pure art of Astronomy. Ref: J.Podolsky, Dec. 1997

This Clock offers the visitor a moment of mystery, magic and mysticism. A number of legends about this clock adds to the mystery. It was believed that it was built around 1490 by a clockmaker Jan Ruze ( Hanus) and his assistant Jakub Cech.Fictitious legends surround the Clock- in recent times, it is believed that it was made earlier, in 1410, constructed by the clockmaker Mikulas of Kadan, with the help of Jan Ondrejuv (Sindel) who was a professor of Mathematics and Astronomy of Prague Charles University. Jack Craven, writes: They say everything in Prague has a story, and so it is with the Old Town clock. Natives claim that when the mechanical figures were created, town officials had the clockmaker blinded so that he would never duplicate his masterpiece. In vengeance, the blind man climbed the tower and stopped his creation. The clock remained silent for more than fifty years. Centuries later, during dreary decades of communist domination, the legend of the blinded clockmaker became a Metaphor for thwarted creativity.

The astronomical dial (astrolabe on the clock face) still works today. It is believed that in the second phase of making the clock, probably around 1490, a calendar dial was added under the astronomical dial. During that time, the front of the clock was richly adorned with Vladislav Gothic stone sculptures. Worthy of note: at the beginning of the 15th century, the sculpture around the astronomical dial and mask and figures were created by members of the Masonic Lodge of stone masons and sculptor led by Peter Parker.
Added in the nineteenth century,this ornamental timepiece doesn't merely mark the hours. Symbols of the zodiac tell the course of the heavens. The irony of the Prague Astronomical Clock is that for all its mastery at keeping time, it is nearly impossible to place in time. The figures of the twelve apostles that pass along the two little windows every hour of daylight were added after major repair work in 1865-1866. During this repair a new calendar disc was installed made by well-known Czech painter Josef Manes. Add to his work the cycle of twelve medallions of the Month and the zodiacal signs. Finally to end the animation, a window opens with a rooster that crows to announce the death. The rooster was added in 1882. There is also the top of the clock men who are playing the trumpet. Stationary statues: The other statues, that donīt move, are an Astronomer, a Chronicler, a Philosopher and an Angel.These are symbolic- man is almost oblivious to the contributions of these figures , except for those with keen interests and study these topics.

Added in the nineteenth century,this ornamental timepiece doesn't merely mark the hours. Symbols of the zodiac tell the course of the heavens. The irony of the Prague Astronomical Clock is that for all its mastery at keeping time, it is nearly impossible to place in time. A Philosopher`s words can be ignored in his lifetime, yet lives on many centuries later. We do not see Angels- yet many of us believe in their presence- to guide, to protect, to inspire man. Think about it- it is the battle between Good and Evil, Life and Death. This was pertinent then back to the Biblical Times and still holds true today, into the 21st century. The Clock was heavily damaged in the last days of World War Two. The Nazis directed artillery fire at the the Old Town Hall and also used hand grenades. The whole building burnt down and with it were the complete City archives. However, some self-sacrificing persons managed to repair hte authentic old clockwork, restoring the Astronomical Clock in its original form. Lois Kramer writes: The clock continues to fascinate and remain fascinating, despite the repairs. It seems unique in its old technology and full of religious symbols. The clock always surprises the technical prowess of the time it took to achieve and the wealth of information it can disclose if we can read it. The Mechanical Aspects of the Clock: Read arrows of time You can read all this information with the Astronomical Clock: - Local time designated by the golden hand over the Roman numerals - The twelfth hour day, designated by the position of the sun on golden curves - Time in hours old Czech designated by the hand on the golden Gothic numerals - The position of the Sun - The position of the Moon - Moon phase - Astrological zodiac sign - Sidereal time, indicated by the small gold star The astronomical dial The astronomical dial is the main dial, it has the shape of an astrolabe. An astrolabe in its Greek etymology is a tool to take the height of the stars and can therefore represent the movement of the stars. In the dial four components are moving: - external rotary circle - zodiacal circle - a Sun moves a needle to a golden hand - a Moon which is located on another needle A magical tour, ending it with an early and relaxing dinner at El Toro Negro- complete with dessert and a bottle of wine.

To end the exciting day- a night out at the Hilton Prague Cloud 9 Bar
Curious crowd at the Prague Astronomical Clock