Visiting Prague’s Astronomical Clock

Heading away from home on a city break brings with it a number of known eventualities. Expensive meals out in the evening, long days of cramming as much touristing in as possible, an obligatory falling out with your travel companion(s) and undertaking more walking in a few days than you would typically do in a month! With so little time it can be exhausting!

These long walks around the cities of the world may be long and tiring but they are more often than not by far the best way to explore a city.

Prague in the Czech Republic is one of those European cities where the entire city can be explored on foot and with so many things to do and see you’ll be spoilt for choice!

One of our favourite places to walk to in Prague is the Old Town square where you will find the Orloj a.k.a. the Astronomical clock mounted to the on the Old Town Hall.

Astronomical Clock Prague

History of the Astronomical Clock

The Orloj dates all the way back to 1411 so as you would expect, there’s a lot of history and stories surrounding it. The creator of the clock has been debated, it has been through numerous repairs over the years and various components have been added as time has passed. During the war the clock received extensive damage from fire and ammunition which led to significant repairs being undertaken.

Components of the Clock

Astronomical clocks appear in cities all over the world and bring with them fascination from the public. They all tend to have the same components but they all operate in a slightly different way or put on a “show” on the hour that differs from one to the next. One thing is consistent however and that is the intricacy of the designs.

Astronomical Clock Prague

1. The Astronomical Dial

The Orloj contains 3 primary components, the first of which is the astronomical dial. This has a central background representing the earth and sky and is surrounded by 4 other components:

  1. A zodiacal ring
  2. An outer rotating ring (time)
  3. The sun (position and sunrise/sunset)
  4. The moon (phases)

Within this construction there are several elements which make it unique in the world including the mechanism inside the moon which uses gravity to determine the moons phases.

2. The Calendar Dial

The second major component of the clock is the calendar dial however this isn’t the original one. It was replaced in 1880 with the original being stored in the Prague museum. The calendar dial contains 12 different images each representing a different month of the calendar year.

3. Statues of Catholic Saints

The calendar dial is flanked by 4 statues which represent the frailty of human life and different human qualities such as vanity. These form part of “The Walk of the Apostles” show which takes place every hour. There are 12 sculptures of the Apostles in the upper windows of the clock and each hour are set in motion with the skeletal representation of death striking an hourglass indicating that life is at the end. The show is concluded with a bird appearing in the upper window.

The astronomical clock is a great attraction within Prague and provides a real point of interest. When visiting the Old Town Square make sure you take the time out to head here on the hour to watch the show.

Are you heading to Prague this year and planning to see the clock? Let us know in the comments!

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