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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Prague Orloj or the Prague Astronomical Clock

Prague Orloj or "Prague Astronomical Clock"
With the Church of Our Lady before Týn in Background
Yesterday, President Harrison left for Prague for a conference on Lutheranism in the 21st century. I leave tomorrow for the same conference. The conference is being held at St. Michael's Congregation in Prague. Nearly nine months ago, I was in Prague making preparations for the conference. While making preparations, I had an opportunity to see the Prague Orloj or the "Prague Astronomical Clock."

The clock itself is 601 years old. In September 2010, the clock celebrated its 600th anniversary. The clock was installed in 1410. It is, if not the oldest, among the oldest working astronomical clocks in the world. Wikipedia notes: "The Orloj is mounted on the southern wall of Old Town City Hall in the Old Town Square. The clock mechanism itself is composed of three main components: the astronomical dial, representing the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky and displaying various astronomical details; '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."

Close Up of the Clock / Astrolab
On the day I was in the square, at noon when the clock struck, trumpeters and others added to the revelry. After the Reformation, Prague became somewhat of an important place for astronomy. Although Luther and Melanchthon were not keen on the views of Copernicus, other Lutherans from Wittenberg were. Eventually, two Lutheran astronomers ended up in Prague, Tycho Brahe (1546 - 1601) and Johannes Kepler (1571 - 1630). Besides studying the laws of planetary motion, Tycho Brahe led an adventurous life by loosing part of his nose in a dual, and taking the daughter of a Lutheran pastor as his common law wife (he couldn't marry her legally because Tycho was a noble and she was a peasant). Tycho Brahe is buried in Prague at the Church of Our Lady before Týn, just a short distance from the Prague Orloj. Kepler studied with a student of Philip Melanchthon. He had strong theological views and practiced Lutheranism in Prague, despite the fact that the two official religions in Prague were Catholicism and Utraquism. He later was denied return to the University of Tübingen in Württemburg for suspicion of holding Calvinistic views due to his long stay in Prague. Kepler developed the laws of planetary motion, contributing to a scientific revolution. Prague (and the astronomers clock) was an important contributor to astronomy in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

A Statue in Prague Dedicated to Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler

In honor of the 600th anniversary, a video was made and projected onto the Prague Orloj, providing a glimpse of 600 years of human history in 10 minutes. It is worthwhile to view the video below.

 There are even a couple of iPhone apps that simulate the Prague Orloj:

Prague Orloj By Jiri Sklenar
Orloj By anyware(Free)

The Prague Orloj from the view of a satellite.


  1. i will take a visit next time.~

  2. the good amazing heritage wall n street photo's....

    tv vanavond

  3. I love the old cultural heritage of the city! I go on Summer Prague city breaks every year and the city looks absolutely amazing!