Wheel on the Astronomical Clock is being replaced

The rotating calendar is the first item to be removed during the planned renovation

Repairs have started on the Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square, much to the disappointment of tourists. The calendar wheel on the bottom of the clock has been removed and is being replaced with a temporary photographic copy.

This is the first part of the planned restoration of the Astronomical Clock (orloj) and the Old Town Clock Tower. The total renovations should cost some Kč 48 million. All of the repairs to the clocks and tower should be finished by July 2018, so that they are functioning in time for the 100th anniversary of the foundation of Czechoslovakia in October.

The wheel has a plate from 1880 with painted plate from 1948 by Bohumil Číla. It makes a full revolution once each year, and the outer edge has a list of name days and holidays. An arrow on top indicates a different name each day as the wheel slowly rotates.

Prague City Hall spokesman Vít Hofman said the plate was in poor condition due to the weather and the names on the wheel were almost unreadable.

Making a new copy of the painted disk will take months, and that is why it is the first step in restoring the clock. The 1948 copy will go to a museum or be exhibited in the clock tower after the restoration is complete.

The wheel will be restored in a workshop in Buštěhrad. A new copper plate will be made, and the painting on the plate will be copied from the original 19th century plate by Josef Manes. The original is in the Municipal Museum.

The wheel has 12 large allegorical images relating to the months and 12 smaller zodiac signs. The large allegorical paintings depict rural seasonal scenes and religious motifs.

The Astronomical Clock will continue to operate for the time being, but the upper clock with a standard clock face is being dismantled starting May 26.

The observation deck in the tower is closed from June 1 until Dec. 31. To make up for the closure, tickets that include a tour of the historical halls and rooms in the Old Town Tower will also be valid for the observation deck in the New Town Hall next to Karlovo náměstí.

When the Astronomical Clock itself is fixed, the modern clock system installed in the 20th century will be replaced with a copy of the original weight system so that it functions more like it did in the mid-19th century. The repairs to the Astronomical Clock mechanism will begin in January 2018. After dismantling, it will be taken to the workshop of clockmaker Petr Skála.

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, including the creation of the painted plate that is now being replaced. 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 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. 

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