A legendary clock in Prague: 600 years of history and fabled tales

Think of a clock, it was made 600 years ago and still works. There are many legends surrounding it. Hundreds of people gather around it to watch for about a minute the great show it puts on every hour. The astronomical clock, which has a different story in every detail, awaits its enthusiasts in Prague

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Ican find you many reasons to go to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. One of them is the Astronomical Clock, the oldest working clock in the world, located in Prague. It may be intimidating for some, but I think it is an absolutely impressive and fascinating clock. The Astronomical Clock in the Old Town Square has enough different details to allow you to spend a long time in front of it. Maybe it would be really unfair to call this piece a clock only.

When you look at the Astronomical Clock, you can understand at a glance that it is not just a clock. Although I went by researching beforehand, when I first saw the clock, I felt as if I was fascinated by the legends I heard about it. It really transports you to another time, it’s like a time machine in that sense. The history of the medieval clock dates back 600 years. In those days, people did not use clocks only to learn the time, and the Astronomical Clock follows that notion of multipurpose. It gives information about the hour, the position of the moon and the sun, the time of sunrise and sunset, and the holy days of the Christian religion. At the same time, there are symbols of the 12 zodiac signs on it.

 

The statues below the Astronomical Clock, in Prague, Czech Republic. (Shutterstock Photo)
The statues below the Astronomical Clock, in Prague, Czech Republic. (Shutterstock Photo)

The clock, made in 1410, is the third oldest clock in the world and has different stories. According to legend, Master Hanus – whom the legend credits as the creator of the Astronomical Clock instead of Mikulas of Kadan – who brought together three different clocks in a single one by the order of the Czech king, was blinded by the king’s order after finishing the clock. The fame of the clock, which spread all over Europe in a short time, caused the rulers of other cities to want one for themselves, but the king did not allow it. In order to prevent that from happening, the master who made the clock had his eyes blinded. According to the rumor, the master could not stand this atrocity and committed suicide by hanging himself on the clock tower by breaking the clock in such a way that no one could operate it. Of course, years later, another clockmaker managed to repair the clock. The clock is currently the oldest working clock in the world.

 

The statues below the Astronomical Clock, in Prague, Czech Republic. (Shutterstock Photo)

The statues below the Astronomical Clock, in Prague, Czech Republic. (Shutterstock Photo)

 

The legends about the clock do not end here. In another story, the clock is referred to as “The Eye of the Devil.” Legend has it that when the Czech nation is facing a disaster, the clock stops. It is said that there are still those who believe in this legend in the city and that people are very afraid of the clock stopping. Those who believe in this also believe that Master Hanus’ had his eyes blinded because the clock is in some way associated with witchcraft.

There are different colors and different figures on the clock. The blue part represents the endless sky and the brown part represents the earth. The clock shows both Babylonian time and old and new European time at the same time.

There are four sculptures in total, to the right and left of the clock. They all have different meanings. The figure holding a mirror represents arrogance and vanity, the figure holding a cane and a money bag in one hand represents greed, the skeleton figure represents death, and the figure playing the mandolin represents joy and pleasure. The intent of these figures was to explain the bad characteristics of people.

 

The skeleton and other figures besides the Astronomical Clock, in Prague, Czech Republic. (Shutterstock Photo)

The skeleton and other figures besides the Astronomical Clock, in Prague, Czech Republic. (Shutterstock Photo)

Just below the clock are four more statues. These sculptures, meanwhile, describe the characteristics that a person should have. The figure holding a book in its hand represents science, the archangel Michael holding a sword in his hand represents justice, the figure holding a feather in his hand represents philosophy and the figure holding a telescope represents astronomy. There are two windows above the clock. Inside these windows are the figures of the 12 Apostles of Jesus. Every hour the skeleton rings the bell and spins the hourglass in his hand. At this time, the windows open and the 12 Apostles appear in order.

You can see an incredible crowd in front of the clock, especially at the beginning of the hour. This is because this animation happens every hour. For example, at exactly 1 o’clock, the skeleton rings the bell and turns the hourglass. Here, the skeleton tells us that the time of death has come. Other figures shake their heads trying to explain that they are not ready for this. Meanwhile, the 12 Apostles pass through the two windows above. The animation ends with the crowing of the rooster on the windows. In this animation, the skeleton emphasizes that everything is temporary, that death can come at any time and that we should be ready for it, while the other figures try to explain their denial of it.

 

The Astronomical Clock and its many statues in Prague, Czech Republic. (Shutterstock Photo)

The Astronomical Clock and its many statues in Prague, Czech Republic. (Shutterstock Photo)

According to rumor, the skeleton figure representing death can bring danger and disaster to the city. However, it is said that there is a way to prevent this. They think the only thing that can prevent disaster is a child. At the end of each year, at midnight, the skeletal figure turns and shakes its head toward the church in the square. They believe that if a child comes out of the church when the skeleton begins to nod and reaches the clock tower by the time the skeleton nods, the city will be spared disasters.

There is also a different opinion about the architect of this legendary clock, whose stories and narrations do not end, that the architect is not really Hanus. While researchers in the country claim that Mikulas of Kadan made the clock, Mikulas is also said to have cursed the clock.

Is this clock, which manages to gather hundreds of people around it every hour, a trap designed to attract tourists to the city? Or are these stories, which are circulating as legends, real? I don’t know, but I’m convinced they are.

However, there is this; It would be unfair to a city like Prague to come to Prague just to see the Astronomical Clock, because there are many places to see in Prague apart from the Astronomical Clock. The ancient machine is just one reason. Hope to see you in my next article, where I will describe Prague’s other, intriguing and beautiful reasons.

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