Tourists disappointed with stopped clock

The Astronomical Clock may be back in testing mode before the October relaunch

The restoration of the Astronomical Clock has caused disappointment to some tourists. The clock is currently covered with a scaffolding, and its repair will last until the end of October. But it could be running during testing before the official relaunch.

The city is also still considering creating a video projection that would show what the face of the clock would look like if it was running. 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.

This will be the longest time the clock is out of commission since World War II when it was heavily damaged by fire in the finals days of the conflict.

Even though the renovations had been announced last year, many visitors were unaware of the situation, especially in the first few days after the clock stopped on Jan. 8. Now, word has gotten out a bit and fewer people are turning up in Old Town Square on the hour to see the famous procession of Apostles, which is not currently taking place.

Some tourists have gone to information centers to express their dissatisfaction. “We already have had several complaints, but most of the visitors understand the need for repairs and restoration," Prague City Tourism spokeswoman Barbora Hrubá said, according to daily Pražský deník. The number of complaints has been decreasing, though, after being quite hectic in the beginning.

The main part of the repairs will last until the end of August, according to the firm L. Hainz, which was established in 1836 and has long been taking care of the clock. But it won’t be running as of Sept. 1. The clockwork and other repaired parts need to be installed. Then there will be some testing ahead of the scheduled relaunch timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Czechoslovakia on Oct. 28, 2018.

“Service on the clock is done continuously, but there are some interventions that cannot be done while it is running. These include the setting up the new calendar wheel, the repair to stone decorations, restoration of statues of the Apostles and the change in the overall concept of the clockwork,” Mariana Nesnídalová of L. Hainz told Pražský deník. Routine maintenance takes place every 10 years.

One of the most obvious changes to the clock will be that the numbers on the 24-hour ring will be regilded.

Also, eight wooden sculptures from the lower part of the clock are having their attributes restored.

The lower calendar wheel, which takes a full year to turn, has been removed and is being replaced with a new copy based on the original paintings by Josef Mánes in the Municipal Museum. The plate that was removed was also a copy, made in 1948.

The wheel has large allegorical images relating to the months and smaller ones of zodiac signs. The large allegorical paintings depict rural seasonal scenes and religious motifs.

As previously announced, the clockwork mechanism is being restored to how it worked in the 1860s. It was replaced with a modern mechanism after World War II. Other parts that were replaced will also be restored back to their pre-war designs, under the supervision of preservationists. This will remove the cumulative effects of changes made by previous restorations.

The first phase of renovations to the Old Town Tower has been completed and the observation has been reopened to the public. New bathrooms and other interior work has also been completed.

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

The clock 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. More repairs took place in 1912.

The clock was damaged by fire in 1945, and repairs took until 1948. The figures of Apostles also had to be replaced with new ones. At that time the colored background for the Astronomical Clock was replaced but with errors in the design. The errors were fixed in 1979. Further repairs took place 1984–86.

The Orloj, as it is also called, is the third-oldest Astronomical Clock in the world and the oldest one still operating.

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