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A Bit Of History Europe

The Prague Astronomical Clock

Visiting Old Town Prague In The Czech Republic

In the center of Old Town Prague on the face of the medieval town hall is a truly remarkable clock. Its origins date back to the year 1410 AD when the city was the capital of the Czech Republic. The Prague Astronomical Clock is the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still functioning.

This wondrous clock features golden hands and a complicated set of ornate wheels that don’t just track the hours of a 24-hour day but has symbols of the zodiac tell the movements of the heavens. Every hour when the bells toll, windows open and robotic apostles, skeletons, and “sinners” begin a march around the clock.

While the Prague Astronomical Clock dates its creation to 1410 has been embellished and improved over time. In the early 15th century the clock showed only astronomical time and positions but by 1490, the clock location was decorated with Gothic style sculptures and an astronomical dial. In the early 17th century the mechanical figure of Death tolling the bell was added. The mid 19th century wooden carvings of the twelve apostles and a calendar disk with astrological signs added.

Today the Prague Astronomical Clock clock is believed to be the only one on earth that keeps sidereal time along with regular time. Throughout the ages different calendars all have had months based on the lunar cycle, but may define those cycles differently. The synodic lunar month is defined by the visible phases of the Moon. The length of a synodic lunar month ranges from 29.18 days to 29.93 days.

The sidereal lunar month is defined by the Moon’s orbit with respect to the stars. The length of a sidereal month is 27.321 days.

Because of the clocks long history there have been a number of legends associated with this clock. One suggests that the original clock designer was actually blinded by the Prague citizens that commissioned the clock to prevent him from creating a clock for another city. Another legend claims that once the Astronomical Clock stops running the Czech nation will be destroyed and the skeleton will confirm this curse by starting to nod his head.

The city of Prague is a patchwork quilt of architectural styles from gothic cathedrals Romanesque churches, Art Nouveau facades mixed in with Cubist buildings with perhaps more clock towers than any other city in Europe.

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