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Astronomical Clock Prague

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Staroměstské náměstí 1/3, 110 00 Praha-Praha 1, Česká republika
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The astronomical clock on the Old Town Hall in the Old Town Square is one of Prague’s greatest attractions. According to legends, it was constructed by Master Hanuš. He was blinded by order of the town council so that he could not create such a masterpiece elsewhere. The story says an apprentice accompanied Master Hanuš, who was in agony, up to the clock where he stopped the clock’s mechanism, which consequently could not be repaired for a number of years.

According to records, it was was constructed in 1410 by the clockmakers Jan Sindel a Mikulas z Kadane, however.

The clock has withstood later changes and has retained up until the present day the mechanism that it was given by clock maker Jan Táborský in 1552-1560. In 1570 Jan Táborský wrote a report on the Astronomical clock, which contained a description of its mechanism and instructions how to repair it.

On every hour statues of the 12 apostles appear in the open windows above the clock. First of all Death, symbolised by a skeleton to the right of the clock, pulls a rope attached to a funeral bell which it holds in its right hand. In its left hand the skeleton grips an hourglass, which it turns up and down. Then the two windows open and the clock mechanism starts turning the apostles around in a circle. The first apostle to appear is St. Peter. At the end of the apostles appearance the cock crows and the clock chimes another hour. Other moving figures on the clock are the Turk, who shakes his head from side to side, a figure symbolising Vanity (the one holding a mirror in its hand), and then a statue symbolising Avarice (modelled on a figure of a Medieval Jewish moneylender).

The clock was not only meant to measure time, but also to trace the alleged orbits of the sun and moon around the earth. The hand with the sun which shows the time in fact measures three different types of time. The outer face with gothic numbers shows Old Bohemian time, in which the 24 hours of the day were counted according to the position of the sun. The face with Roman numerals demonstrates contemporary time and the blue area of the clock face shows the visible part of the sky. It is divided into 12 parts according to Babylonian time, in which daylight was divided into 12 hours of varying lengths in the summer and winter. The clock also shows the movements of the sun and moon through the 12 signs of the Zodiac.

The lower face of the clock is a so-called calendarium with Czech country scenes showing the labours of the months and the signs of the Zodiac. It was painted by Josef Mánes and ceremoniously unveiled on August 18th 1866.