Old Town City hall and astronomical clock

Astronomical ClockThe Old Town Hall (Staroměstská radnice) was founded in 1338. It is comprised of 5 individual houses which were gradually joined together into one building. The dominating feature of the Old Town Hall is its 69.5m high tower dating from the late 14th century, with an ornate oriel window, part of the chapel, on the eastern side.


On the southern side of the tower we find the famous Astronomical Clock, created by Mikuláš z Kadaně in 1410. According to the legend, when the the Astronomical Clock was finished, the councillors had Mikuláš z Kadaně’s eyes put out so that he couldn’t repeat the feat in another city.


The Astronomical Clock can be divided into three sections: The first section contains the small windows, at which every hour the 12 apostles appear and bow to the waiting crowds. Every apostle holds his symbol: St Peter has a key, St Matthew an axe, St John a chalice and so on. Four figures directly underneath also spring into action when the apostles appear. The skeleton inverts his hourglass and rings a bell to let us know that our lives are at an end; the Turk, a symbol of a comfortable life, nods his head but then shakes it refusing death. The figure representing vanity looks in the mirror and the Miser shakes his purse full of money. At the end of this show the cockrel crows marking the beginning of another hour of this life.


The second section is called the upper face and shows the movement of the planets. Naturally this represents an old way of thinking with the planets and Sun circling a stationary Earth.


At the very bottom is the calendar-wheel, where in addition to the coat of arms of the Old Town, the signs of the zodiac and the months of the year represented by motifs from rural life are depicted. Around the edge of the wheel are 365 notches; the wheel turns one notch each day taking a whole year to make one full turn.

The Astronomical Clock also shows four times: Central European time shown with Roman numerals around the edge of the upper face; Old Bohemian time is shown with gold Gothic numbers (according to this method of time keeping, the day begins at sunset);Babylonian time where the hours are much longer in the summer than in winter; and celestial time shown by a small star on a rod extending from the zodiacal cross.

The 2nd floor interiors of the town hall are of particular historical interest. Here the original Gothic council chamber has survived. The large chamber is decorated with pictures by Václav Brožík. In the late Gothic Jiříkova Chamber visitors will find the remnants of murals from the end of the 15th century. Just like every medieval town hall, the Old Town Hall used to have a prison. Prisoners were lowered down into their own private cell, a hole in the ground which was then filled in with stone. Prisoners were, in essence, buried alive.

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Thanks for a very enjoyable tour. Your tour was as if we were being shown the city by a personal friend. Thanks for being sensitive to our particular interests and needs. I will be happy to pass along my recommendation for your services.
Best Regards

24.7.2011 Barbara and Tom Tailor