Prague’s old Town Hall was built in 1364. The astronomical clock in the town hall’s tower is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. Originally, the building served only as the city hall of the old town, but later became the city hall for all of Prague. It is now only used for ceremonial functions.
The Town Hall
After John the Blind – count of Luxembourg and king of Bohemia – accorded the citizens of Prague the privilege of having their own district council in 1338, they decided to build a town hall, paid for by a duty levied on wine. The almost seventy meters (230 ft) tall tower was completed in 1364.
As a result of continuous expansions, the town hall now consists of a colorful collection of Gothic and Renaissance-style buildings. During the Second World War, the complex was severely damaged when the Nazis suppressed the Prague uprising, but it is now thoroughly restored.
A magnificent late Gothic door in the house adjacent to the tower serves as the main entrance to the Old Town Hall. The pink colored Renaissance style house next door features a richly decorated window with the city’s coat of arms. It currently houses the tourist information office. From here you can get access to the tower.
Another interesting building that is now incorporated in the Old Town Hall is the so-called Dům U Minuty, a fifteenth-century house embellished with beautiful sgraffito from the seventeenth century.
The Old Town Hall is famous for its beautiful façade clock. The clock dates back to the beginning of the fifteenth century. Clockmaker Hanuš, who perfected the construction in 1490 was – according to legend – made blind by the city council to prevent him from making a more beautiful clock elsewhere. Most of the mechanism still used today was made by Jan Táborský between 1552 and 1572.
The clock is a magnet for tourists, especially just before the hour, when the twelve apostles march past. The skeleton on the right, depicting Death, starts the show by pulling on a string. In the meantime, he looks at his other hand, in which he holds an hourglass. Then, two windows open, from where the apostles march. After the ritual, a cock crows. Other figures symbolize vanity, heathenism and parsimony.
Below the apostles is the astronomical clock, which has the earth in the middle of the universe. The clock was created to show the then presumed rotation of the sun and the moon around the earth. The clock also shows the movement of the sun and the moon in relation to the signs of the zodiac.
Below the astronomical clock is a calendar. The calendar, built by Josef Mánes in 1866, shows the days of the year together with symbolic pictures of the months of the year.