What is so special about this clock that it draws thousands of visitors to stand before it at every hour, elbowing and posturing for a better view? Well, this isn't any ol' clock. It is a medieval astronomical clock that dates back to 1410, making it the 3rd oldest astronomical clock in the world, and the oldest one still working.
At the strike of the hour, the Walk of The 12 Apostles begins, appearing from the little windows in the upper part. From the left window, St. Paul appears holding a sword and a book, followed by St. Thomas carrying a spear. Next you see St. Juda Tadeus holding a book, St. Simon holding a saw, St. Bartholomew with a book, and St. Barnabas carrying a papyrus.
From the right window, St. Peter appears first with a key, followed by St. Matthew holding an ax, St. John admonishing a snake, St. Andrew with a cross, St. Philip with another cross, and St. Jacob with a tool used for working flax.
After the Apostles' procession, the windows close and a cockerel flaps its wings and crows in an alcove. Then, the chimes of the hour are rung.
There's more to this fascinating clock! The figures at the top and bottom of the clock held significant meaning to those in medieval times. The four figures represent things that were despised in those days. At the top left is Vanity (the figure admiring himself in a mirror), the Miser/Jew holding a bag of gold representing greed, Death (the skeleton that pulls the bell cord starting the procession), and the Turk who shakes his head defiantly (also called the Piper). The four figures at the bottom represent what was seen as virtues: A chronicler, an angel, an astronomer and a philospher.
The clock sadly suffered great damage in May of 1945 when it took a direct hit from Nazi artillery fire during the final phases of WWII. The entire building burned down. Fortunately, a few caring citizens managed to repair the clock to its original authenticity.
Even before the 1945 tragedy, this clock had a rocky history for working properly. Of course, an old legend is to blame for that. According to legend, the town's councilors poked out the clock's creator, Hanus, eyes so that he could not recreate another similar clock in any other city. Before Hanus died, he climbed the clock tower and took revenge by damaging the clock.
Where can you find this ancient mechanical clock? It is mounted on the wall of Prague's Old Town City Hall in Old Town Square. Just look for an amassing crowd staring upward about 15 minutes before the hour--that's where you will find it.
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