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The Prague Astronomical Clock (Prague Orloj) is one of the world's most fascinating and beautiful artifacts.
This medieval art timepiece has been working for over 600 years, with more than half using its original mechanism and has astronomical details. It is located at the Old Town Square, on the southern wall of Old Town Hall.
It is covered with carvings and details of Gothic style. This clock is well known for its calendar and astronomical dials of massive size and the parading figurines every hour. Every year, hundreds of tourists and locals gather around this astronomical clock of Prague to see this masterpiece. People stay ready with their cameras to capture the moment when the clock chimes.
The face of the Prague Astronomical Clock is incredibly complex, showing not only the estimated time with respect to stars (sidereal time) but also the expected time with respect to the Sun (solar time), the times of dawn and dusk at various latitudes, the phase of the Moon, including the equator, and much more. Even though most of the clock's inner workings have been modified multiple times since its inception in 1410, original elements remain. An equal-sized solar calendar spins just once a year beneath the clock. The clock also displays Babylonian time and German time.
If you like to know about various architectures, then you can read the Radio city music hall facts and Royal Albert hall facts articles on our website.
The astronomical clock of Prague is the third oldest of its type in the whole world, but it is the oldest working clock of that type. The astronomical dial and the mechanical clock date back to 1410 when Mikulas of Kadan created it. 80-85 years later, the Gothic sculptures and the calendar dial were added. This clock has stopped working many times during the past 600 years, and hence has witnessed many additions and repairs.
In the 17th century, the moving statues were added, and in the year 1865, the figures of Apostles were added. This clock is approximately 609 years old, and the first mention of this clock was in the same year. The oldest part of the clock is Orloj, and the calendar dial in the lower region was added in 1490. Around this time, the famous gothic statues were also added to the clock. Between the years 1629 and 1659, wooden statues were also added. The Apostle statues were installed during 1787 and 1791. The iconic golden crowing rooster of the clock tower was added in 1865. Throughout these additions to the clock, the clock has undergone maintenance as well.
The people of Prague believe that if the clock falls or stops, the city will suffer. During the second world war, this clock faced heavy damage when Prague fought against the Nazis. The wooden sculptures of the Apostles were almost burnt during that time. After significant repairs, the machinery started working again, and Vojtech Sucharda fixed the wooden Apostles. The Orloj again began to work in the year 1948, and the clock mechanism was also repaired at the same time. In 2005, another round of renovation took place with the calendar ring at the lower side, and the statures were restored. Also, anti pigeon nets were added. The most recent renovation in the clock was added in 2018 (Jan to Sept). The Old Town Tower was reconstructed.
There are three parts of Prague's astronomical clock: the astronomical dial, the 'Walk of Apostles', and the calendar dial. Watching this clock perform is very fun to see, yet working and understanding the clock is very tough. The complexities of this clock make it unique.
The astronomical dial displays the position of the Moon and Sun. The stationary background of the dial represents Earth and the sky, while the green circle at the center shows Earth's land area. The black and red are represent the sky below the horizon. The Roman numerals show the local time. There is a black ring with zodiac signs on it around the Earth, indicating the Sun's position. There is a ring of numbers to indicate the Old Czech Time. In 1865, Josef Mánes added a calendar dial to the clock tower. It depicts the days of the year and big medallions depicting the twelve months. The smaller images represent the zodiac signs.
The writing on the outer edge calendar indicates the 365 saint's names. The original calendar plate got removed in the year 1880. Above this clock are the two small entrances that open at the top of each hour. Two small entrances above the clock open at the top of the hour. The Apostles are represented by small statues that parade out the doorway and then return on the other side. The Apostles parade is very famous among the tourists.
The figures of the astronomical clock come out of the clock for their mechanized routine for about 30 seconds on each stroke of the hour. These four figures indicate the residents of Prague's primary concerns. Greed (a man with a money purse), pagan invasion (a Turk), vanity (well-dressed man looking into mirror), and death (depicted by a skeleton). Statues of four virtues stand beside the calendar dial. An angel, a chronicler, a philosopher, and an astronomer are among them. Death strikes a bell and inverts the hourglass as the clock approaches the hour. The twelve apostles then emerge in the windows located above the astronomical dial, marching past the clock's windows while turning to face the crowd. The golden rooster crows when the procedure is finished and the hour is called.
Apart from the beauty of this clock, there is folklore associated with this, which is very famous among the city people. According to various legends, a terrible tale of death and jealousy is linked with the clock, and it has a curse. Mikulas of Kadan, who was the master clock master, was approached by many countries to make the same clock as he built in Prague. They wanted the equivalent architecture and magnificence of the clock. But when the elite city councilors of the city found out about this, they burnt the eyes of Mikulas so that he won't be able to construct or give ideas about this clock again. Mikulas got very angry with this, and hence, to get revenge against the people who supported burning his eyes and later killed him, he cursed that if the clock is ever stopped, the one who must repair it would go mad. The horns and beard of the moneybag-holding figure, who is now politely referred to as Greed, were removed at the end of world war two.
The zodiac components of this astronomical clock at Old Town Square are indeed an interesting feature. Inside the more prominent black circle outside, there is a movable inner circle also which has many zodiac signs that indicate the Sun's location on the ecliptic. These signs are made in an anti-clock order. The movement of the zodiac circle is because of the stereographic projection of the ecliptic plane, which uses the North Pole as the base of projection. The little golden star represents the position of the vernal equinox. The sidereal time can get read on a scale using the golden roman numerals. The astronomical dial displays the position of the Moon and Sun.
The golden sun rotates around that Zodiacal ring. This shows the position of the ecliptic. The golden arm with which the Sun is attached shows the time using three different depictions. One is by using the golden hand on the roman numerals on the back, representing Prague's local time. Second is the placement of the Sun on the curved golden lines, which represents the time in unequal hours. And the third is the representation of the golden hand on the outermost ring, representing the number of hours that passed after sunset in the Old Czech Time. The numbers from 1 to 24 are written on a black background.
It is believed that the Astronomical Clock of Prague is a gift that keeps on giving. In one of the recent repairs of the clock, inside the statues of the clock, a secret message was recovered. During the repair works, it was found that the statue of St. Thomas was a lot heavier compared to others and its looks. It was removed and put under X-ray to check the mystery. It was found out that this statue had a metal case in it that had a message written on it.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created many interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for 15 Prague astronomical clock facts to know before you visit the town, then why not take a look at kids' chemistry simplified, why do metals conduct electricity or why do men go bald, learn bizarre body facts?
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