Global Conference in Prague, 2023 Reporter's Notebook Top Travel

Prague’s breathtaking timepiece

Prague's Astronomical Clock draws a crowd in Old Town Square. (YJI photo)
Viktorie Goldmannová/YJIClick on the image to see more ‘Postcards from Prague.’

PRAGUE – Except for the Charles Bridge, the Prague attraction most recommended by my friends and family was the Astronomical Clock for its beauty, grandeur and history.

When I visited during Youth Journalism International’s Global Conference in Prague, I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

Despite the blazing heat of the middle of the day in Prague, huge numbers of tourist groups like our own crowded around the Old Town Hall for a glimpse of its historical architecture, including the clock. 

The unique and beautiful clock has many functions. Not only does it tell the time, date and the relative positions of the sun, moon, earth and zodiac constellations, but it also provides an artistic view for all watching.

The numbers, Roman numerals and zodiac constellations are all painted in gold, which gives them a shimmering effect in the bright sun.

YJI students and leaders admire Prague’s Astronomical Clock. (YJI photo)

Installed in 1410, Prague’s Astronomical Clock is the oldest working clock in the world, chiming every hour from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.

This is because on the strikes mark a procession of “Twelve Apostles,” conducting a show of sorts. The Twelve Apostles are Jesus’ disciples, and they include key religious figures such as Saints Peter, Matthias, John, Andrew, Philip, Jacob Less, Paul, Thomas, Simon, Jude Thaddeus, Bartholomew and Barnaby.

We were lucky enough to see the clock in action twice and to squint up to it from below to see the Apostles circulating the platform. 

On either side of the clock, other figures are displayed.

To the right of the clock, there is a morbid-looking skeleton holding an hourglass. This is a symbol of measuring lifetime and serves as a reminder that everything inevitably ends.

(Gemma Christie/YJI)

Next to the Skeleton is “The Turk,” a symbol of extravagance and pleasure in the sense of human depravity. It is holding a lute.

On the opposite side of the clock from the Skeleton and The Turk are The Miser and The Vain Man.

The Vain Man is on the outside, looking at himself in a mirror. He represents human vanity.

The Miser holds a rod and is a symbol of vice and avarice, or wickedness and greed.

At the top of the tower, there is a golden Rooster that symbolizes life. Just beneath it is the Stoned Angel, one of the oldest sculptures on the clock. But it had to be replaced with a copy due to war damage caused in May 1945.

Below the clock, on the left, the edge is lined with another two sculptures: Archangel Michael and The Philosopher. Archangel Michael is also gold and holds a spear and shield, while The Philosopher holds a book.

Finally, on the opposite side of the Archangel and Philosopher are the Astronomer and Chronicler. The Astronomer stands on the inside with binoculars and The Chronicler holds quill and parchment.

(Gemma Christie/YJI)

Despite the grandeur, scaffolding and the bright sun made it  a challenge to see the hourly show. Nevertheless, it was a popular photo-taking point.

Most of the sculptures on the clock are over 100 years old, except for the ones destroyed due to the Second World War. The preservation is magnificent.

This clock was beautiful, expressive and absolutely worth a visit.

Gemma Christie is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International from England. She wrote this article and took most of the photos.

Norah Springborn is a Senior Correspondent with Youth Journalism International from the United States. She contributed one of the photos from inside the clock.

YJI’s Gemma Christie and Anjola Fashawe in front of the Astronomical Clock.

Read more from YJI’s ‘Postcards from Prague’ series about the 2023 Global Conference.

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