Private guide in Prague
The Prague Astronomical Clock
Prague’s astronomical clock is one of the most popular place in the city. Enthusiastic, clapping tourists crowd in front of the Old Town Hall tower to watch the clock strike the time every hour. As the bells chime, two doors above the clock face slide open and statues on a rotating platform move into view, one after another. These figures represent the 12 Apostles
|The Old Town Hall|
Real history of the Astronomical Clock
In 1961 was discovered an old document, which describes the astronomical dial and says it was made by Mikulas of Kadan in 1410. He probably cooperated with the astronomer and Charles University professor Jan Sindel.
Legend about clockmaster HanusTowards the end of the 15th century, Hanus, also called Jan of Ruze repaired and made some improvements to the clock The story said that the clock was admired by many foreigners, but Hanus refused to show construction plans to anybody. When Prague Councillors found out that he was going to make another, even better clock, they became jealous and blinded him so he could not finish it. Later he allegedly damaged the astronomical clock in revenge, and nobody was able to repair it.
The Astronomical Clock was repaired and improved by Jan Taborsky in the 16 th century. However, it became very faulty as time went by, and it was mostly out of order. It was even considered whether it should be liquidated in the 1780s. The clock soon stopped working for a long time.
The major repair was inevitable and it came in 1865. The clock was modernized and a new Calendar Dial was painted by Josef Manes. In 1945 the German army damaged the Astronomical Clock and some of the statues burned. They were replaced by replicas later, and the striking of the clock was changed from the Old Czech Time to the Central European Time.
The Astronomical Clock consists of the windows with apostles at the top, the Astronomical Dial, which is the oldest part, the Calendar Dial underneath and various sculptures around.
Figures on the Astronomical Clock
Other figures, on each side of the clock face, also move. These figures also show the prevailing prejudices of the time in which they were made. Going from left to right, the first figure is Vanity. This is the figure of a man admiring his reflection in a hand mirror. The next figure is a man with a bag of money, representing Greed. Death, represented by a skeleton, beats a drum and nods its skull. A Turk is the Infidel rounding out the set. Four other figures remain motionless – The Astronomer, Chronicler, Philosopher, and Angel.
The Astronomical Dial shows the medieval perception of the Universe: the Earth is the center. The blue part of the dial represents the sky above the horizon, the brown part the sky below it. There are Latin words ORTVS (east) and OCCASVS (west) written above the horizon, and AVRORA (dawn) and CPEPVSCVLVM (twilight) below.
There is a Zodiac ring, which represents the stars in the sky and it moves according to it. The two clock hands bear the signs of the Sun and the Moon.
There are three circles on the dial, showing different time: the outer circle with Schwabacher numerals shows the Old Czech Time (“Italian Time”), the circle with Roman numbers shows the Central European Time and the inner circle with Arabic numerals shows the “Babylonian Time”: the length of an hour differs there according to the season – it is longer in the summer, shorter in the winter. The Prague Astronomical Clock is the only one in the world able to measure it. Furthermore, the little star by the zodiac ring shows the sidereal time.
The newest part of the clock is the Calendar Dial. There is the Prague Old Town symbol in the centre. The rotary outer circle describes every single day of the year, and the current date is indicated at the top. There are also medallions with zodiac signs and with pictures depicting every month.
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