a guide to prague’s astronomical clock

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The Astronomical Clock of Prague is the oldest astronomical clock in the world that is still working! It dates back to the 15th Century. It is such an interesting and clever piece of engineering!

Have you ever seen such a complicated-looking clock?


So here is a quick guide to the clock.

The Top Circle


On the outside of the clock, you can see each hour of a normal 24-hour day which shows the “Old Czech Time”. The Roman Numerals on the next inner circle is for the current central European time while the Arabic numerals indicates Babylonian time. There is also a circle with the zodiac symbols indicating which zodiac sign currently reigns.

On the arms of the clock, there is a sun and a moon. During the day, the sun on that clock arm will be in the blue section (the top half) of the clock face. During the night, it would be in the black section (the bottom black circle). The sun moves along the clock arm and depending on the distance from the centre, it indicates sunrise and sunset time.

The black ball that can be seen represents the moon on during its lunar phase. With a new moon, it starts as a black ball and as the month progresses, the ball will slowly turn revealing a bit of silver each day. By the time it is a full moon, the ball will be silver.

You will see on either side of the clock, there are two characters. The first on the left is a man holding a mirror, he represents vanity. The second man is holding a moneybag, he represents greed. The first one on the right is a skeleton, representing death and the last one is a Turkish man holding an instrument representing entertainment and pleasure.


Every hour, the clock performs a little show. Death turns the hourglass in one hand and rings the bell with his other hand. He is beckoning the other three that their time is up! They shake their heads to indicate they don’t believe it is their time.

In the meantime, the two windows above the clock have opened and the 12 apostles take turns appearing to the crowd. Once this performance is complete, the rooster above the clock moves forward, flaps his wings before the clock chimes!


It is all rather theatrical and gimmicky but it’s novel and worth seeing if you happen to be around the clock on the hour (except at midnight when it won’t perform).

The Bottom Circle


This acts as the calendar. If you look carefully at the picture (or click on the image to get a full image to zoom), you will see that at the top, there is a “gold” pointer. Working from the outside, there is the list of each name day for the entire year. Then the next circle in, shows images relevant to farming jobs that farmers should be doing at that particular time of year (e.g. sowing, harvesting etc). The next ring of images indicates the corresponding zodiac signs. And the centre is the coat of arms of Prague.

And to finish, here is a legend about the clock and its maker:

The clock was made by a Mr Hanŭs. The town councillors were so pleased with how it was bringing people all around Europe to Prague. So to prevent Mr Hanŭs from creating another clock ever again, they invited him to a party and they feasted and drank and were merry. The councillors then ordered to have Mr Hanŭs’ blinded and have his tongue removed. The legend continues that to exact his revenge, Mr Hanŭs had his servants take him up the clock tower where he threw his body into the clock’s mechanism to cause it to malfunction. It stopped working until it was repaired many years later.

And as it is a legend, there are many variations to the story. But at the end, whether it is true or not is up to you!

Have a great week ahead, folks! 

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