Old Town Hall Tower to be renovated

The city is looking for a company to do the most extensive repairs in 30 years

The Astronomical Clock Tower and chapel in Old Town Hall will be undergoing renovation. City Hall announced a tender to find a company to carry out the work worth up to an estimated Kč 46.6 million without VAT. The Old Town Hall Tower, which is a popular tourist attraction, was last repaired in 1984–86.

The current repairs will affect the tower, the astronomical clock, and the interior and exterior of the chapel. The roof and rafters as well as other structural parts will also be repaired, and new lighting will put on walkways inside the tower.

Since the last round of repairs 30 years ago, only slight maintenance has been performed to try to offset the wear and tear from tourism. Some 700,000 people visit the tower each year. The ongoing repairs, though, have not been adequate. Efforts to reduce the traffic in the tower have been made as well.

The exact cost is not known, but should not exceed Kč 46.6 million, according to the tender guidelines. It is also not yet certain whether the tower will need to be closed to the public during the repairs, when the repairs will occur, or how long they will take. Companies interested in the project can submit offers until Oct. 17.

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, also called the Orloj, was first built in 1410, redesigned in 1490 and again in 1552–1572. Its last major repairs took place after World War II, when the clock was damaged by fire. The figures of saints, which make an appearance every hour during the day, had to be replaced with new ones. There was a minor repair in 2005 to some of the lower statues.

The Orloj 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 ring on the bottom rotates once a year and indicates the name of a different saint for each day.

A wing of the Old Town Hall burned down at the end of World War II as well. The wing has not been replaced and is now filled with grass and benches as well as merchants' stalls. Several efforts have been made to replicate the building or make a new one, but so far nothing has happened due to strong public opposition to tampering with the square.

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