Prague astronomical clock celebrates 605th year with Google Doodle

9 Oct 2015

For the last 650 years, the Prague astronomical clock has attracted visitors from around the world, not only for its beauty, but also as the oldest clock of its kind in the world.

Built during the height of medieval times in what is now the capital of the Czech Republic, the Prague astronomical clock – or Prague orloj as it’s also known – is situated in the central Old Town Square.

The astronomical clock – the only remaining functioning example in the world – garners huge attention for its hourly display of a variety of figures from Christian history, including the 12 apostles, with Death himself represented as a skeleton.

There are also other figures represented on the clock, including a Turk who is shaking his head, as well as someone admiring themselves in a mirror.

The other key element of the clock is, of course, the astronomical dial that uses an astrolabe with the Earth and sky at its centre, and icons representing the moon and the sun.

These are joined by two of its major rings – the zodiacal ring and the outer rotating ring – which, when viewed together, are a primitive example of a planetarium.

Prague astronomical clock

“A magnificent achievement in medieval engineering”

Explaining its decision to mark the Prague orloj’s 605th birthday, Google said: “The hands of Prague’s astronomical clock have measured a staggering amount of history. It predates Shakespeare by over a century, and had been operational for two years by the time Joan of Arc was born.”

Google went on to say that the clock highlights an incredible feat of human engineering, despite the challenges it has faced in its history: “Despite over a half a millennium of wear, and a brush with disaster in WWII, much of its original machinery remains intact, making it the oldest functioning clock of its kind in the world.

“Today’s Doodle honours a magnificent achievement in medieval engineering and a cultural landmark whose symbolism, design and intermittent repairs are a remarkable catalogue of Europe’s past.”

Sadly, the Google Doodle does not appear for Irish Google users, but does appear for a few select countries across the world, including the Czech Republic, of course.

Prague orloj image via Kainet/Flickr

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic