The astronomical clock is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Prague with a rich history: since 1410, it keeps secrets of the generations.
Tragic fate of Master Hanuš
Master Hanuš was one of the most well-known clockmakers of the time. According to the legend, Hanuš was chosen by Prague’s councilors to design a device that would serve as a clock but have additional valuable features. Hanuš presented his work to the councilors and they thought the machine was a true piece of art. However, they got scared that he’ll replicate the clock, stripping it off its uniqueness. Clock could show different times – the astronomical, Central European, Babylonian, and Old Bohemian. That is why the councilors decided that the only way to preserve the authenticity and irreplicability of the clock was to get rid of its creator’s abilities. One night, a group of people came to Hanuš’s house, tied him to a chair, and blinded him with a piece of glowing iron.
Luckily, the clockmaker had students who eventually helped him have his revenge by stopping the clockwork. It took more than a century to solve how Hanuš stopped the clock and how to fix it. Potential clockmakers who were attempting to set the clock would end up dying or going mad. Maybe, it was the curse of Hanuš. Some people still believe that the spirit of Master Hanuš is living inside the Astronomical Clock.
Skeleton of the Astronomical clock
Have you ever noticed a skeleton figure on the clock’s right side? Based on the myth, the Astronomical clock will stop running when the Czech nation is about to encounter challenging times. The skeleton, in its turn, would nod its head to confirm this fact as it has a power of telling the future. The only one to save Czechs from the disaster would be a boy born on the New Year’s night. According to the legend, once the clock starts going again, the boy should run out of the church located across the square (also known as the Týn Church) to the town hall before the clock’s last strike. If he manages to do it, the skeleton will lose its evil powers, and Czechs will have a prosperous and lucky year!
A free sparrow
Actually, there is another legend that involves the skeleton. However, in that one, the skeleton represents a sign of hope rather than evil spirits. When looking at the astronomical clock, you might notice two small windows at the top. These windows were leading to the prison, previously used for aristocrats. One knight was imprisoned there, awaiting his execution. He was looking out of the window, and when the clock began to strike, he noticed a sparrow fly by the skeleton. When the skeleton shut its jaws, it captured the little bird inside.
The knight thought that the poor bird will spent the rest of its life there, repeating his own fate. The sparrow had to wait one hour until the clock started moving again, and the skeleton opened its teeth. The bird was free again! When the knight saw that, he took it as a sign that he would escape his prison, as well, and was eventually pardoned.
In 2021, you can still visit the Astronomical Clock even if you are outside of Prague! Take a virtual tour by clicking here. You can also discover the clock’s mechanism by checking out the video guide on this portal. Besides the online excursions, there is also a live stream of the clock available anywhere – check it out! If you are living in Prague, you can visit the clock any time if the COVID-19 restrictions allow for it.