Astronomical clocks are anything but ordinary. They are equipped with special dials and very different clockwork that state the positions of the sun, the moon, zodiacal constellations and at times even major planets. Over the centuries, many astronomical clocks were developed all around the globe.
Here’s a sneak peek into the age old clockworks devised during our ancestral times.
10. Gros Horloge
The Gros Horloge is the pride of the French people of Rouen. This astronomic clock, that is equidistant between the Place du Vieux Marché and the Rouen Cathedral, can be seen on a Renaissance arch, which was built in 1527. The construction of the Gros Horloge dates back to the 16th century and its functioning from 1389. The clock dial is of a diameter of 2.5 metres. A single hand with a lamb at its end, points at the hour. Above the clock face, the moon phases can be seen in the Oculus, within a sphere of diameter 30cm. It completes a rotation in 29 days. There is also a hand decked by allegoric characters, one for every day of the week, at the base of the dial.
9. Olomouc Astronomical Clock
The Olomouc astronomical clock is another famous and rare ancestral wonder found in the Czech Republic in Olomouc. An example of a heliocentric astronomic clock, the Olomouc consists of a lower dial that represents the earth and indicates the time, date and phase of the moon. The upper one consists of star, sun, etc., against the zodiac background. The construction period is thought to be between 1422 and 1517. It also contains representations of twelve seasons and two festivals- the Procession of Maidens and the Ride of the Kings.
8. The Zytglogge Tower Clock
The Zytglogge tower in Berne, Switzerland was built in the 13th century. This medieval times structure has two clock faces, and contains a remarkable 15th century astronomical clock. The dial is in the form of an astrolabe, with the planisphere divided into three zones portraying the sky at different hours- the black night sky, the deep blue sky at dawn and the light blue day sky. The clock also has a Julian calendar dial and as the clockwork is not supportive of the leap days, every leap year on 29th February it is manually reset.
7. The Torrazzo of Cremona
The famous bell tower of the Cathedral of Cremona, Lombardy, Italy is known as The Torazzo. In the fourth storey of the tower, is the largest astronomical clock in the world, built between 1583 and 1588. The exterior of this remarkable construction has been repainted many times and has a representation of the sky, and contains the sun, moon and zodiac constellations.
6. Prague Orloj
In Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, an astronomical clock known as the Prague Orloj is mounted in the Old Town Square on the southern wall of the Old Town Hall. Three main components govern the working of the Orloj, where the first represents the astronomical dial representing the positions of the Sun and Moon and elaborating various other astronomical details. Similarly, the second “The Walk of the Apostles”, an hourly show of the Apostles and other moving figures, including a figure of Death (indicated by a skeleton) striking the time. And, lastly the third, a calendar dial containing medallions representing the months. As legend has it, it was believed that the city would suffer if the clock is neglected.
5. Strasbourg Astronomical Clock
The Strasbourg astronomical clock was built between 1838 and 1843 to replace a former 16th century clock that stopped functioning in 1788. It is placed in the Cathédrale Notre-Dame of Strasbourg, France and consists of the first perpetual mechanical Gregorian computus, a planetary display to show the actual positions of the sun, moon and the eclipses. Carvings of athletes, scientists, workers, farmers, and other members of the proletariat on this age-old invention is awe-inspiring to watch.
4. Stara Bystrica
The astronomical clock is shaped in the form of the patron of Slovakia, Our Lady of Sorrows. It is the only one in Slovakia and has been described as the largest wooden statue in the country. Statues of marked figures from Slovakia’s history adorn the exteriors of the clock. Each hour, statuettes of various saints associated with Slovakia appear. The bells of the clock carry the names Sv. Juraj (St. George) and Riečnická Madona (Our Lady of Riečnica). The first bell indicates the time while the second bell accompanies the saints. The astronomical part consists of an astrolabe showing the positions of the Sun, Moon and the lunar phases. The clockwork is controlled using a computer.
3. Cosmic Engine Clock
Now the pride is present in the Science Museum, London, a Chinese mathematician Su Sung developed it in 1092 in China. Ten meters in height, this clock features with an escapement and receives its power by a wheel rotating either with running water or substituted by liquid mercury for usage during colder weather. The National Museum of Natural Science in Taichung city, Taiwan, China, also houses a twelve-meter high replica of Su Sung’s clock.
2. Wells Cathedral Clock
The Wells Cathedral in England houses a clock that might as well give a gist of the pre-Copernicus universe. In this clock, the sun and moon revolve around the fixed earth, which is marked by a ball in the centre. The dial proposes a model of the universe. Against a background of stars, the sun moves in a circle, which is marked in Roman numerals from I to XII, then from I to XII again, representing the time.
Four angels in the corners hold the four cardinal winds and on the ring inside a small star indicate the minutes. The inner circle with a pointer shows and indicates the phasing of the moon. Still operating in its original condition in the London Science Museum, the Wells Cathedral clock gives a geocentric view of the entire universe.
1. Horologium Mirabile Lundense
The Horologium mirabile lundense was devised in the 15th century at the Lund Cathedral in Sweden. Built in 1425, stored since 1837 and restored in 1923, this remarkable timepiece has two knights that mark the hour on the clock. Out of the two boards, the upper board is the clock, while the lower is a calendar, with St Lawrence the Patron saint in the centre, and by his side the Symbols of the Four Evangelists.