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PRAGUE'S ASTROLOGICAL CLOCK

February 1, 2019

Photo Credit : Ryhor Bruyeu

 

 

Prague, Czech Republic. is a destination that offers delightful sites and sounds. Get lost. Discover. Explore.

The best time to enjoy Prague is in the early Spring or late Fall/Autumn when the summer crowds have left to pick up their routine life.

 

Highlights of the city include: The Old Town Hall and Astronomical Clock; the St. Nicholas Church; Powder Tower; Charles Bridge; Prague Castle, Kampa Riversise and Malá Strana (Lesser Town).

 

For me, the most enchanting and captivating part of  my trip was the Astronomical Clock. 

 

Dating back to 1410, the Astronomical Clock is breathtaking and such incredible show of man's ingenuity.  Show up 15 to 20 minutes before the hour to get a good viewing spot because there's always a crowd!

 

The clock mechanism itself has three main components: the astronomical dial, representing the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky and displaying various astronomical details; statues of various Catholic saints stand on either side of the clock; "The Walk of the Apostles", a clockwork hourly show of figures of the Apostles and other moving sculptures—notably a figure of Death (represented by a skeleton) striking the time; and a calendar dial with medallions representing the months. 

 

The background represents the Earth and the local view of the sky. The blue circle directly in the centre represents the Earth, and the upper blue is the portion of the sky which is above the horizon. The red and black areas indicate portions of the sky below the horizon. During the daytime, the Sun sits over the blue part of the background and at night it sits over the black. During dawn or dusk, the mechanical sun is positioned over the red part of the background.  Written on the eastern (left) part of the horizon is aurora (dawn in Latin) and ortus (rising). On the western (right) part is occasus (sunset), and crepusculum (twilight).

 

 

 

Golden Roman numerals at the outer edge of blue circle are the timescale of a normal 24-hour day and indicate time in local Prague time, or Central European Time. Curved golden lines dividing the blue part of dial into 12 parts are marks for unequal "hours". These hours are defined as 1/12 of the time between sunrise and sunset, and vary as the days grow longer or shorter during the year.

 

Inside the large black outer circle lies another movable circle marked with the signs of the zodiac which indicates the location of the Sun on the ecliptic. The signs are shown in anticlockwise order. In the photograph accompanying this section, the Sun is currently moving anticlockwise from Cancer into Leo.

The displacement of the zodiac circle results from the use of a stereographic projection of the ecliptic plane using the North pole as the basis of the projection. This is commonly seen in astronomical clocks of the period.  The small golden star shows the position of the vernal equinox, and sidereal time can be read on the scale with golden Roman numerals. The zodiac is on the 366-tooth gear inside the machine. This gear is connected to the sun gear and the moon gear by a 24-tooth gear.

 

The golden Sun moves around the zodiacal circle, thus showing its position on the ecliptic. Additionally, the distance of the Sun from the center of the dial shows the time of sunrise and sunset. The Sun and its hand are on the 365-tooth gear inside the machine.  The moon sphere is seen showing approximately a quarter moon.  The half-silvered, half-black sphere of the moon also shows the Lunar phase.

 

The four figures flanking the clock are set in motion on the hour, and represent four things that were despised at the time of the clock's making  -Vanity, Death, Being a Miser,  and Earthly Pleasures. On the hour, the skeleton rings the bell and immediately all other figures shake their heads, side to side, signifying their unreadiness "to go."

 

 

Life rewards the curious and so I hope you feel inspired to go and see this wonder of the world yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

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