Prazsky Orloj


Medieval Astronomical Clock 

Prazsky Orloj is a medieval astronomical clock mounted on the southern wall of a lone tower built in 1381 housing the Old Town City Hall located in Old Town Square, heart of Prague, capital of the Czech Republic and considered the 3rd mechanical clock of its kind.

Presumably constructed in Padua in 1344, the astronomical dial dates back to 1410 and it is made of 3 pieces; the walk of the Apostles at the top, the clock dial or sphere in the center, and the calendar in the lower part, probably added to its facade around 1490, all decorated with Gothic sculptures.

Mechanical show features, in the left window, Saint Paul holding a sword and a book, then Saint Thomas carrying a spear, followed by Saint Juda Tadeus holding a book in his left hand, Saint Simon holding a saw, Saint Bartholomew holding a book and coming last Saint Barnabas or Nathael carrying a papyrus.

From the right window comes first, Saint Peter carrying a key, Saint Mathew with an axe, Saint John chastising a snake, Saint Andrew and Saint Philip with a cross, and finally Saint Jacob with a tool for working flax.

In the lower part, it has other fixed statues, including Death represented by a skeleton pulling a bell cord with one hand and holding an Italian clessidra in the other. At Orloj’s top part the Apostles come out in a procession on an hourly basis going back inside when done, closing the window with crows in an alcove and cockerel flaps before the chimes of the hour sounds.

Both sides of the clock dial and calendar features a pair of moving statues and 4 figures at the top representing the menacing elements for the city of Prague in the Middle Ages. The dial has a background representing Earth and sky surrounded by 4 main moving components including icons representing the sun and the moon, as well as a zodiacal ring and 3 co-axial wheels with 365, 366 and 379 cogs.

Orloj was first repaired in 1552 and repairs were needed when it stopped working many times through the different centuries. Adding some other elements like the moving statues in the 17th century and the figures of the Apostles during major repair in the 19th century between 1865 and 1866 gave Orloj a different look. During 1945, the whole structure was damaged by the Nazis artillery fire before the ending of the WWII. In 1948, the original Apostles sculptures were replaced and the clock only faced one other major repair in 1979.

One of the most famous legends surrounding this clock says that the master clockmaker Hanus had his eyes burnt out with a hot poker to make sure he would not build another clock elsewhere that would overshadow the beauty of this one. However, once blinded and with the help of his apprentice he deliberately damaged Orloj so seriously that nobody could repair it or those who tried gone mad or died. 

Prazsky Orloj

Prazsky Orloj

Prazsky Orloj

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