More than 600 years old, the Prague Astronomical Clock shows the medieval view of the universe in which the Earth is the center.
One of the most beautiful cities in Europe, capital of the Czech Republic, keeps in its heart a magical secret related to the stars. Majestic, patient, unique. Such is the Prague Astronomical Clock, also called Orloj, a living symbol of medieval art, intelligence and craftsmanship that has been at work for 600 years.
The medieval astronomical clock adorns the south wall of the Old Town City Hall in the Old Town Square. Announce every hour with 12 apostles passing through the window on the astronomical sphere and with symbolic sculptures moving from side to side. That makes it a very popular tourist attraction.
The legend of Hanus, the master watchmaker
The origin of the Prague Astronomical Clock was confused for centuries. The author was believed to be the watchmaker Hanus, also called Jan de Ruze, who lived in the 15th century. History said that the watch was admired by many foreigners, but Hanus refused to show the construction plans to anyone. When the Prague councilors found out that he was going to make another watch, even better, they got jealous and blinded him, so he couldn’t finish it. Later, supposedly, Master Hanus damaged the astronomical clock in revenge, and no one was able to repair it.
The real author of the clock was discovered in 1961 in an old document, which describes the astronomical sphere and says that it was made by Mikulas de Kadan in 1410. And that the latter probably cooperated with Jan Sindel, the astronomer and professor at the University of Carlos IV .
The Astronomical Clock was repaired and improved by Jan Taborsky in the 16th century. However, it became very faulty as time went on, and ended up not working barely. Even in the 1780s it was considered whether it should be destroyed. One day the clock stopped and stopped working for a long time.
Major repair was unavoidable and arrived in 1865. The clock was modernized and Josef Manes painted a new calendar dial. In 1945, the German army damaged the Astronomical Clock in Prague and burned some of the statues. Later, they were replaced by replicas, and it was changed from the old Czech Time to Central European Time.
The astronomical clock is made up of the windows with apostles at the top, the Astronomical Sphere, which is the oldest part, the Calendar Sphere below, and various sculptures around it.
Figures of the Apostles
The wooden figures of the apostles with their attributes appear in the windows every hour, while at the same time some of the sculptures begin to move: Death holds his hourglass and beckons to the sculpture of the Turkish man, who shakes the head in response. There is Vanity portrayed as a man with a mirror and Greed as a man with a bag of money, shaking a stick. The other statues, which do not move, are an Astronomer, a Chronicler, a Philosopher, and an Angel. When the apostles finish their journey, the golden rooster at the top sings and flaps its wings, the bell rings, and the clock strikes on time.
The Astronomical Sphere shows the medieval perception of the Universe: the Earth is the center. The blue part of the sphere represents the sky above the horizon, the brown part below the sky. There are Latin words ORTVS (east) and OCCASVS (west) written on the horizon, and AVRORA (sunrise) and CPEPVSCVLVM (twilight) below. There is a zodiac ring, which represents the stars in the sky and moves according to it. The two hands of the clock bear the signs of the Sun and the Moon.
There are three circles on the dial, which show different times: the outer circle with Schwabacher numerals shows Old Czech time (“Italian time”), the circle with Roman numerals shows Central European time, and the inner circle with Arabic numerals shows ” Babylon Time “: the duration of an hour varies according to the season; it is longer in summer and shorter in winter. The Prague Astronomical Clock is the only one in the world capable of measuring it. In addition, the small star next to the zodiacal ring shows sidereal time, the hour angle of the vernal equinox.
The newest part of the watch is the calendar face. The symbol of the old town of Prague is in the center. The rotating outer circle describes all the days of the year, and the current date is indicated at the top. There are also medallions with signs of the zodiac and with images that represent all the months.
If your astrotourism trips have not yet taken you to beautiful Prague, surely right now you are dying to see the Orloj work. Here you can see this marvel of engineering and aesthetics by telling the time and find one more reason to visit the city of the Hundred Towers.