It’s seen a lot, but the Prague astronomical clock doesn’t look a day over 600 as it turns 605 this week. The clock has seen over half a millennium’s worth of wear and tear, including two world wars and the Prague Uprising. Despite this, the clock remains functional today and much of the original machinery is intact. It is the oldest functioning clock of its kind in the entire world.
One popular legend that surrounds the clock dictates that if the clock is neglected and falls into disrepair, so will the city of Prague. The clock, which resides in the city’s Old Town Square, is surrounded by characters that move on the hour. It is believed that when the skeleton character, representing death, nods its head that the clock feels neglected and it is time for the city to suffer.
The clock was significantly damaged in World War II and during the Prague Uprising. Following the Allies inevitable success in the war in 1945, Nazi forces sabotaged both the clock and the building that it is housed in. The clock was non-functional until 1948 when it was finally repaired.
The clock was built in 1410 by two different men; Catholic priest Mikulas of Kadan, and scientist Jan Sindel. Sindel functioned as the team’s astronomer, while Mikulas functioned as the team’s clock-maker. The religious influence can be seen throughout the clock, with the twelve apostles surrounding the clock face. Additionally, there is a skeleton depicting death and examples of different sins such as greed and vanity.
Don’t worry if you can’t get the time off work or school to make it down to Prague to check out the clock. Google has got you covered. Google Maps actually allows you to use street view to check out the clock’s inner workings. While it may not be as good as the real deal, it’s still an incredible sight.
How old is the clock exactly? To put things in perspective consider the following: the clock was functioning 2 years before Joan of Arc was born. It is almost 100 years older than William Shakespeare and an impressive 310 years older than the United States.