Astronomical Clock to stop for six months

The tourist attraction will go back to its 19th century mechanical design

If you haven’t gone to see the procession of the wooden Apostles that occurs at the top of the hour at the Astronomical Clock at Old Town Square, you should go soon.

The Astronomical Clock, also called the Orloj, will be in service for the last time at 9 am on Monday, Jan. 8. Then it will be out of service for six months while it is repaired, so it can be in good working order in time for the 100th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia in the latter part of 2018.

The clock will be dismantled and taken to a workshop to be rebuilt. All of the modern mechanisms added after World War II will be removed and it will be restored to work on weights and pulleys, according to its design from1860.

The chapel of the Old Town Hall will also be repaired in the following months. Repairs to the lookout gallery on top of the Old Town Hall Tower were recently completed, and the bathrooms were also modernized.

“After stopping the clock, it is first necessary to label all the parts, catalog them and complete the dismantling. This is a complex machine, so the preparation for dismantling it takes several days to a week,” Prague City Hall spokesman Vít Hofman said, according to daily Mladá fronta Dnes.

Restoration of the Astronomical Clock and the wooden Apostles sculptures will cost about Kč 7.4 million without VAT. Another Kč 2 million will go to the production of a new calendar wheel, repainting the astrolabe, and fixing the doors the Apostles appear behind.

The clock will be restored by the firm Hainz, which has been taking care of the clock since the 1960s.

During the time the Astronomical Clock is restored, the City Council is considering a substitute so that visitors to Prague won’t be disappointed. One option is that the space where the clock was will be replaced by a large screen with a projection. This could occur in about a month when the clock has been completely removed.

Counting the repairs to the rest of the Old Town Tower including plaster in the interior and structural work, the total cost of the project is Kč 48 million without VAT.

A legend states that stopping the Astronomical Clock signals a pending catastrophe such as a war, but in reality that has not been the case. Some tragedies can be found for each of the years it stopped, but similar ones can be found on other years when the clock was running.

The roots of Old Town Hall go back to 1338 when the town councilors bought an existing building on the square and converted it to civic use. The tower was completed in 1364. Expansion and modification of the Old Town Hall continued over the centuries.

The Astronomical Clock was first built in 1410, redesigned in 1490 and again in 1552–72.

The clock had fallen into disrepair in the 18th century and underwent a large renovation in 1797–91, and the rotating Apostles were added around this time. Another repair took place in 1865–61, and the sound of the rooster was added. The clock was also made more accurate. More repairs took place in 1912.

The clock was damaged by fire in May 1945, and repairs took until 1948. The figures of Apostles had to be replaced with new ones. At that time the colored background for the clock was replaced but with errors in the design. The errors were fixed in 1979. Further repairs took place 1984–86. There was a minor repair in 2005 to some of the lower statues.

It is the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still operating. The astronomical dial is a type of mechanical astrolabe, showing the positions of the Sun, Moon, and planets relative to the zodiac constellations. It also shows common civil time, Old Czech Time and Babylonian time. A wheel on the bottom rotates once a year and indicates the name of a different saint for each day.

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