Thursday 29 June 2017

Prague's astronomical clock (605), oldest of its kind, gets Google doodle

Low angle view of an astronomical clock on a government building, Old Town Hall, Prague, Czech Republic
Low angle view of an astronomical clock on a government building, Old Town Hall, Prague, Czech Republic
Prague

Rhiannon Williams

Prague's astronomical clock, the oldest working clock of its kind in the world, has turned 605 years old, and Google has marked the occasion with a Google Doodle.

The ornate clock, known as the Orloj, is one of Prague's most recognised touristic spectacles, and is located in the Old Town Square in the centre of the city. Its hourly shows draw curious visitors from all over the world, where 12 apostles emerge from two windows to nod at the crowds below.

Upper quadrant with zodiac signs and lower with calendar, by Mikulas de Kadan, astronomical Clock, City Hall, Prague (UNESCO World Heritage List, 1992), Czech Republic, 15th century
Upper quadrant with zodiac signs and lower with calendar, by Mikulas de Kadan, astronomical Clock, City Hall, Prague (UNESCO World Heritage List, 1992), Czech Republic, 15th century

Other allegorical figures include Death, as a skeleton holding an hourglass, a miser with a purse of coins, a Turk shaking his head and Vanity peering into a mirror. The 12 zodiac medallions below the clockface itself were added by Josef Manes in 1865.

 

 

"Despite over a half a millennium of wear and a brush with disaster in WWII, much of its original machinery remains intact, making it the oldest functioning clock of its kind in the world," Google said.

"Today’s Doodle honors a magnificent achievement in medieval engineering and a cultural landmark whose symbolism, design, and intermittent repairs are a remarkable catalogue of Europe’s past."

Detail of Astronomical Clock Prague Town Hall
Detail of Astronomical Clock Prague Town Hall

The clock consists of two dials; the astronomical and the calendar dial. The former represents how the medieval world perceived the universe, with the latter's outer circle describing each day of the year.

It was once believed that clockmaker Master Hanuš created the timepiece in 1410, and legend has it the city councillors were so enamoured with it they had him blinded out of fear he should build another for a different European city. Distressed, Master Hanuš is said to have thrown himself into the clock mechanism, dying immediately.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

However, a document unearthed in 1961 claimed the clock was actually made by a Mikulas of Kadan in 1410, in cooperation with astronomer Jan Sidel.

The most recent renovation to the Orloj took place in 2005, when the statues underwent some repair work. The city marked the clock's 600th anniversary with a light show depicting its creation and key moments in its history.

Telegraph.co.uk

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