The horologe and the Old Town Hall

Nowdays perhaps all visitors to Prague make their way to Old Town Square at all times of the day and on the stroke of every hour admire the run of the HOROLOGE (ASTRONOMICAL HOURS)
situated on the Old Town Hall.It is controlled by a very complicated mechanism from the Middle Ages.It seems that it gained its oldest form as long ago as 1410, when it was made by the clockmaker Mikuláš of Kadaň.The horologe was reconstructed at the end of the 15th and again in the mid-16th century.The clock also underwent later repairs (for example, its statuettes were destroyed by fire in 1864 and after 1945 they were renewed).A part of the horologe was damaged by gunfire from Nazi tanks in May 1945, but its mechanisms and outer appearance have still their original medieval form.The lowest part of the horologe, the calendarium, is also the youngest part.The course of village life (12 outer medallions) and the signs of the Zodiac (12 inner medallions) are depicted on it.Situated on the sides of the calendarium are statuettes of burghers and an angel.
The middle part of the horologe is occupied by a complicated sphere (a term of medieval astronomy indicating that the Earth is the centre of the universe).It measures time and shows the movement of the Moon and the Sun between the signs of the Zodiac.
In the two small windows in the uppermost part of the horologe a procession of the Apostles can be seen on the stroke of every hour and before them a skeleton, the symbol of death, tolls a passing-bell by means of a rope and raises an hour –glass.After the Apostles a cock shakes its wings and crows in a niche above the small windows.Another part of the horologe is an allegorical statue of a Turk, obviously recalling the Turkish invasion of Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, and two figures representing human miserliness and vanity.
The horologe is, however, only a small part of the present OLD TOWN HALL, which originated gradually from a whole complex of buildings.Originally the Gothic corner house, to which a square tower was added in 1364, was the seat of the Town Council from 1338.The oriel of a chapel was adjoined to its eastern side and the horologe was placed on its southern side.In 1470-1480 this facade was provided with a decorative Gothic portal which now serves as the main entrance to the Town Hall.
In the latter half on the 14th century the Town Hall was enlarged by the addition of another house, decorated in 1520 with a Renaissance window above which we can read the Latin inscription Praga – caput regni (Prague – the capital of the kingdom).After the mid-15th century a third house, reconstructed in Neo-Renaissance style in 1878, became the property of the community.And, finally, the house called At the Cock, of Gothic origin with an Empire facade, became the last part of the Town Hall complex.A Romanesque room has been preserved in the basement of this house, while Renaissance ceilings and wall paintings can be seen in a preserved state on its first floor.In 1610 the complex of Town Hall buildings of the present was enlarged still further by the building-on of the Renaissance house called U minuty (At the Minute), whose biblical and classical motifs.
During the Prague Uprising, on 8 May, 1945, one day before the end of the war, the Old Town Hall was severely damaged by gunfire and later by fire during which the whole of the Neo-Gothic eastern and northern wings were destroyed.

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  30. prosinec 2007
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