Astronomical clocks are not your regular run-of-the-mill clocks.
They are equipped with special dials and mechanisms to display
astronomical information, like the positions of the sun, moon, the
major planets and zodiacal constellations, in addition to the regular
time of the day, which is why they are so named.
There are many other remarkable astronomical clocks in the world, another famous construction that deserves a mention in this regard is the Jantar Mantar of Jaipur, India. This UNESCO World Heritage site has some great astronomical instruments, and as a whole it not only gives time using the 43 ft. sundial, but also for helps to ascertain the declinations of planets, celestial altitudes and related ephemerides, etc.
Europe's Astronomical Clocks
Horologium mirabile Lundense, Sweden
The Horologium mirabile Lundense is a 15th century astronomical clock in Lund Cathedral in Sweden. Constructed in circa 1380, in storage since 1837, and restored in 1923, it has two knights on the top to mark the hours. While its upper board is an astronomical clock, the lower board is a calendar, with the Patron Saint Lawrence in the centre, and the Symbols of the Four Evangelists by his side.
Wells Cathedral, UK
The Wells Cathedral clock, one of the most remarkable astronomical clocks, is in the north of Wells Cathedral in England. Its surviving mechanisms of 1386-1392, was replaced in the 19th century. It operates in the London Science Museum. Its dial gives a geocentric view of the universe, and the moon and sun revolve round the earth. Another dial with the same mechanism is on the outer wall.
Gros Horloge, Normandy, France
The Gros Horloge in Normandy, France, is an astronomical clock in
the 14th century. The clock, installed in a Renaissance arch crossing
the Rue du Gros-Horloge in Rouen, and it has one of the oldest
mechanisms in France. It displays the weekdays with artistic allegories
at the base, along with phases of moon in an oculus. Originally
constructed without a dial, the façade was added in 1529.
Prague astronomical clock
The Prague astronomical clock, also known as the Prague orloj, in
Czech Republic, is the third oldest in the world and the oldest to be
still working. Mounted on the wall of Old Town City in Prague since
1410, it has an astronomical dial, a mechanical clock, a calendar dial
and Gothic structures, as well as the Walk of Apostles, and other
moving statues along with details were added in different centuries.
Zytglogge tower clock
The Zygtlogge tower in Bern Switzerland is a landmark medieval
structure of the 13th century, and has two clock faces, and a
remarkable astronomical clock of the 15th century. The dial of the
astronomical clock is like an astrolabe, with the planisphere divided
into three parts representing the sky at different hours. It has a
Julian calendar dial, and represents zodiac, and has many such details
Rostock astronomical clock, Germany
The Rostock astronomical clock is set in St. Mary’s Church in
Rostock, Germany, built in 1472. At the top is an Apostle-go-round
where the apostles cross before Jesus, and has Judas shut out. In the
middle is a clock that shows daily time, month, moon phases and zodiac.
At the bottom is a calendar valid till 2017. The medieval clock is the
only one of its kind that still works with original clockworks.
Strasbourg astronomical clock, France
The Strasbourg astronomical clock is in the Cathédrale
Notre-Dame of Strasbourg in France. Built between 1838 and 1843 to
replace the 16th century clock that stood for 50 years after going out
of order in 1788, it contains what is considered as the first perpetual
mechanical Gregorian computus, an orrery or planetary display to
display the actual position of the sun and moon and the eclipses.
Besançon Cathedral astronomical clock, France
The astronomical clock in Besançon Cathedral, France, was
made and installed in 1860 to replace the original Bernardin’s
clock, with more work done for 3 years. Meant to express how the
Resurrection of Christ led to man’s existence, its mechanism has
a whopping 30,000 parts, with 21 automated figures and animated
pictures, making it one of the world’s most remarkable
Olomouc astronomical clock
The Olomouc astronomical clock is another famous one of its kind
found in Czech Republic in Olomouc. This clock is a rare example of a
heliocentric astronomic clock. Various sources state the construction
period to be 1422 or 1517. The lower dial represents the earthly
sphere, indicating time, date and phase of the moon. The upper one star
map, sun, etc. against the zodiac background.
Torrazzo of Cremona clock astronomical clock
The Torazzo in Lombardy, Italy, is the famous bell tower of the
Cathedral of Cremona. In its fourth storey, there is a remarkable
astronomical clock, which is the largest astronomical clock in the
world, built in 1583-1588. The exterior, which has been repainted
repeatedly, has a representation of the sky, and has zodiac
constellations, as well as the sun and moon moving through them.
St. Mark's Clock, Piazza San Marco, Venice
St Mark's Clock is the clock housed in the Clocktower on the Piazza
San Marco in Venice, Italy, adjoining the Procuratie Vecchie. The first
clock housed in the tower was built and installed by Gian Paolo and
Gian Carlo Rainieri, father and son, between 1496 and 1499, and was one
of a number of large public astronomical clocks erected throughout
Europe during the 14th and 15th centuries. The clock has had an
eventful horological history, and been the subject of many
restorations, some controversial. The clock was inaugurated on February
1, 1497. Driven by weights, with a foliot escapement, the clock
controlled both the bell-ringing shepherds on the tower, who would have
rung the bell between 1 and 24 times to sound the Italian hours, and a
carousel which showed the procession of the Magi, preceded by an angel
blowing a trumpet.
The dial was a concentric-ring astronomical clock similar to the Padua clock of 1434, rather than the astrolabe type with offset zodiac dial, as found at Prague. The 24 hours of the day were marked, in Roman numerals, around the edge, with I at the right-hand side, and marked Italian hours. The relative positions of five planets (Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and Mercury) were shown, as were the moon's phases and the position of the Sun in the zodiac. The four circular windows around the dial may have contained astrolabe-type devices or orreries.
Zimmer tower Lier, Belgium
It took Louis Zimmer five years to make his Jubilee Clock. In 1930
he presented it to Lier, the town of his birth, on the occasion of the
hundredth anniversary of the independence of Belgium. Hence the name
‘Jubilee Clock’. The clock was installed in the restored
medieval Cornelius Tower, at which time it was renamed the Zimmer Tower.
On the stroke of 12 the years 1830-1930 (Jubilee Clock), the Belgian coat of arms, the first three kings of Belgium, Lier’s coat of arms and the six mayors who have governed Lier since Belgium’s independence appear.
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