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Astronomical Clock of Prague
On Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí) is located one of the most famous monuments of Prague the Astronomical Clock (Pražský orloj). The clock seems difficult to understand. Let’s look the meaning of each dials and the history of this clock.
You can read all this information with the Astronomical Clock:
The astronomical dial is the main dial, it has the shape of an astrolabe. An astrolabe 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:
The original function of this mechanism still dating the XIII century was not giving the correct time. It was to give the movement of the sun and the moon around the Earth at the time thought was that the Earth was the center of the universe. You can see also see the Earth in the center of the dial represented by a blue circle. The black circle represents the portion of the day non visible between the two parts orange.
The upper part of the dial in blue represents the day and Arabic numerals represent the hours of the day time or one twelfth of a day. You can also see Latin inscriptions on the left which means dawn and sunrise (ortus and aurora) and right entries mean twilight and sunset (occasus and crepusculum).
Roman numerals are made to indicate the local time in Prague, the XII on the top represent noon on the bottom represents midnight.
The circle moves in the main dial turning. On the dial are the signs of the zodiac. At the end of the dial is 72 parts gold. These 72 parts represent about 5 days.
The black circle outside the astronomical dial also moves with the numbers Gothic and represents the number of hours elapsed since the beginning of sunset.
The Sun moves along a needle is used to indicate the astrological sign in which we stand. Golden hand allows the end of the needle to indicate the time on the dial.
Moon has more or less the same meaning but moves more quickly to indicate the moon phase.
The clock is decorated with four characters around it representing each:
All these figures have been added during the nineteenth century.
There is also a calendar astronomical dials which was added in 1886, created by Josef Manes one of the most famous Czech painters. On this calendar you can see represented the arms of Old Town Prague. You can observed circles representing scene of peasant life in Moravia to indicate the days of the year. Around this calendar is fixed as four characters which an angel holding a sword.
Funny thing that attracts the crowds on Old Town Square, every hour from 9:00 am until 9:00 p.m., you can see the characters come alive.
But there is not only this characters who are coming alive but, windows open and twelve apostles parade. There is also St. Peter makes an appearance on two windows.
These animations were also added in the nineteenth century. And finally to end the animation, a window opens with a rooster 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.
My explanations further illustrate through this video here.
A little advice, certainly the atmosphere of the Old Town Square is sublime with nightfall. But if you want to enjoy “a little more quietly” animation, I suggest you come in the morning before 9:00, it is less crowded in general.
Element of the recent ones have been added in the nineteenth century, but the clock was made in 1410 by Nicolas Kadau. The clock was perfected in 1490 by Hanus (Jan Ruze). Legend has it that have blinded the clockmaker after reshuffle the clock, so that it can not replicate.
But what is still original on the clock which has spent more than VIII century?
The upper disk of the astronomical clock is the only original element which dates from the fifteenth century.
For the rest of the clock has suffered the damage of time. Especially when the Nazi regime fled Prague in 1945, they set fire to the clock. The clock was repaired later in 1948 but also in 1994 and 2006.
But 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.
This clock shows that Prague is truly a capital full of history, but as the whole Czech Republic. Do you want to see another Astronomical Clock in the country? It is less known but in Olomouc
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