Petit Futé's opinion on ASTRONOMICAL CLOCK (PRAŽSKÝ ORLOJ)
You can't escape it. An old and complex mechanism, a show every hour, and it also gives the date!
Looking for a good crowd bath? There is no escape: in Prague there is the Charles Bridge, and the Astronomical Clock of the City Hall. Every hour, a dense and compact crowd gathers, mobile or camera in hand, to immortalize the setting in motion of this clock animated by a crowd of characters powered by a 600-year-old mechanism. This original mechanism operates skits: the 12 apostles march through the central window, while Death shakes his hourglass, the Miser (once a Jewish merchant, but fortunately the figure was modified after the Second World War) shakes his purse and the Vanity tilts his mirror. As for the Turk, who represents the infidels, he would refuse with a head movement to follow Death... These figures are recent since they date from 1948 and replace those destroyed by the Nazis in 1945. Frankly, it's not very spectacular, but it's a bit of a must during a visit to Prague. The central dial indicates, thanks to three hands, the position of the sun, the moon, the planets and still... the time. All this according to medieval cosmology.
The astronomical clock is composed of two distinct parts that allow it to be read. In the upper half are gathered the characters who attract attention, while in the lower part we can read the seasons and months of the year as well as the saint of the day. A large central dial still gives the time, but it must be admitted that it is very difficult to read it since the hands also give the position of the moon and the sun. To put it simply: thirteen lines divide two orange parts, the one at the bottom of which symbolizes the day. The thirteen lines thus divide each day into 12 periods. The sun running on the rings around it does not take the same amount of time to turn around the hours in summer or winter, which allows it to adapt to sunrise and sunset. The moon is also mobile and makes it possible to identify the different lunar phases. The set therefore assumes many graduations and series of numbers among which only habitus or specialists can find themselves.
It was the master watchmaker Hanus who created this magnificent technical masterpiece in 1490, based on a first clock designed in 1410, so that the feat could not be repeated in another city, it is said that the municipality of Prague blinded the unfortunate craftsman. It was therefore impossible for him to share his knowledge and experience with other City Halls. While Hanus took care of the technical part, puppets and their movements were only added in the 16th century. As the whole building was burned down by the Germans at the end of the war, the ones you admire today were replaced in 1948.
A little advice if you are agoraphobic: meet twenty minutes before the one-hour stop at the café of the Grand Hotel in Prague, located just in front of the astronomical clock. The coffee's bay windows overlook the astronomical clock and so you won't miss a single moment of the show, sitting comfortably in front of a coffee and a pastry shop! Or you can choose to spend the evening, since the clock runs until 11pm, but the details of the characters will obviously be less easy to identify.
Information on ASTRONOMICAL CLOCK (PRAŽSKÝ ORLOJ)
Become animated at each hour with the procession of the figurines. Every day between 9am and 11pm.
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