The astronomical clock in Prague has kept time for over six centuries and continues
to keep accurate time to the present day. It draws many tourists to the city and
is a lasting tribute to the craftsmen of the day.
It is amazing how a timepiece as complex as the astronomical clock is could
be built in a time of relatively low technology. The clock shows three individual
sets of data. It shows the revolutions of the Sun, the revolutions of the moon,
and the revolutions of the stars. The clock is divided into red and blue halves
representing day and night.
The movements of the clock are provided by large wheels mounted on the same
axle. The first gear contains three hundred and sixty-five teeth and drives
the zodiac. The second gear contains three hundred and sixty-six teeth and rotates
the sun indicator. The third gear drives the moon pointer and contains three
hundred and seventy-nine teeth. The clock also contains a half silvered and
half black ball that rotates and displays the phase of the moon. Thousands of
tourists and visitors crowd into the Old Town Square in Prague to watch the
Astronomical Clock strike the hour.
The Procession of Apostles delights the crowd as they one by one at small doors
at the top of the wonderful clock.
Two images stand on each side of the clock faces. These images are allegorical
and represent vanity, greed, death, and lust. Greed and death are pictured here.
The bones of the skeleton rattle as the clock strikes the hour.
Original construction of the clock occurred in 1410; however, only recent advances
in technology have enabled historians to conclude this. For many decades it
was believed that the clock was constructed in 1490 by Hanus and his assistant
Jakub Eech rather than by Mikulas of Kadao in a partnership with Jan Ondoejuv.
Mikulas was the clockmaster and Jan Ondoejuv, also know as Sindel, was a professor
of mathematics and astronomy at Prague Charles University.
Through its life the clock has undergone several renovations and repairs. In
1490, a calendar dial was added to the clock under the astrolabe on the clock
face. During this renovation the entire clock was ornamented with Vladislav
Gothic sculptures made of stone. In the fifteenth century a sculpture beside
the clock and a mask and figures were added by sculptor Peter Parler and stonemasons
from the Masonic lodge. Again in the seventeenth century more new statues were
added. Moving statues were added on the side of the dial and nonmoving statues
were placed beside the calendar dial.
From 1865-1866, the clock under went even more repairs. During this repair
figures of the twelve apostles were added and a new calendar disc installation
occurred. The Czech painter, Josef Manes, made the new disc. The disc consisted
of twelve medallions for the months and the corresponding zodiac signs.
The clock was severely damaged by Nazi fire during World War II. The Nazis
completely burned the Town Hall and nearly totally destroyed the clock. Many
people sacrificed their time and gave their handy-work to repair the clock to
like-new condition. Also, sometime during a renovation, the clock was configured
to show three time zones: Central European Time, Old Czech Time, and Babylonian
Although every repair to the clock has added new statues of artistic design
the clock was not originally designed like that. Originally the clock had no
moving statues or figurines to amuse people. It only had relevant astronomical
The years between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries proved to be an exceptional
time for artists and clock makers in Europe and Asia. In 1344, the first astronomical
clock was built in Padua and a second clock was built in 1354, in Strassburg.
The third to be built was the clock in Prague. It is the clock in Prague which
draws tourists by the thousands to see the clock in action.