How to Read the Prague’s Astronomical Clock

Visiting Prague and wondering how the Astronomical Clock, known as Orloj works? It may look complicated at first, but I have your back, in this post I will help you figure out all the features in this masterpiece, and how to properly see the hours in it!

In addition to being a fairytale city, Prague also has a great difference, which is its Astronomical Clock.

I’m not going to lie, this was the main thing I wanted to see in the city when I booked my trip to Prague, but looking at the photos on the internet, it seemed difficult to understand how the Prague Astronomical Clockworks, and in person, it seemed like it was on the internet.

But calm down, don’t worry! To solve the mystery and understand how the Astronomical Clock works, I did all the necessary field research, which included pestering locals and taking time away from people who just wanted to go home after a tiring day at work, so that YOU little golden rosemary, you don’t need to do the same.

And here I present to you, the Guide to Understanding How the Prague Astronomical Clock Works!

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How to Read the Prague’s Astronomical Clock

The Prague Astronomical Clock

This is one of the very few Astronomical Clocks that still exist in the world. It was installed here, in the Tower of Prague’s Old Town Hall in 1410, making it the third oldest building in the world.

In case you are wondering, the oldest Astronomical Clock in the world was made in China, in the 11th century AD, but has not survived to this day.

To give you a better idea of time, think that when Christopher Columbus arrived in America, this clock was already here, working as it does today!

There are even old records of people traveling to Prague and stopping by to visit the Clock as a tourist attraction, already in the first years of its existence.

What is an Astronomical Clock

Before explaining how to read the various information contained in the Astronomical Clock (or Orloj, for those more intimate), let’s first understand what exactly an Astronomical Clock is.

While a normal clock will show you the hours and minutes of the day, an Astronomical Clock will also tell you the position of the main stars.

In other words, in addition to the hours and minutes, the Astronomical Clock can tell you the position of the Sun, and the Moon, under the influence of which Zodiac Sign the world is, and in the case of the Prague Orloj, for example, the correct phase of Moon, a Calendar with Month and Day, and some other information that we will see below.

The Prague Astronomical Clock is divided into two “displays”, below, to help you understand how Orloj works, I explain what information you find on each display.

First Display: The Different Times

The first display is the display at the top, it shows the time and the movements of the stars. To see the time, you need to look for the golden hand, which is the main hand of the Clock. You will notice that there are several circles, with various information.

The circle on the outside indicates the time in the old way, known as the Italian Time, or Bavarian Time, where the day begins with sunset, this was the way people saw time from the 14th to the 18th century.

The Roman Numerals below Italian Time are the times we use today, so this is the number you look at if you want to know the current time. But it only works accurately during winter, because this clock does not take into account summer time.

Below the Roman Numerals, there are also small markings in black, this is another timetable, called Babylonian Time.

This is the only astronomical religion in the world that shows this time accurately. To read Babylonian Time, you have to look at the golden miniature representing the Sun at the base of the pointer, it is normally located between two Babylonian times. Babylonian time only has 12 hours, because at the time it was used, only the hours of day and not night were counted.

Finally, there is Star Time, or Sidereal time, based on the fixed stars in the sky. It measures the Earth’s rotation relative to other planets.

This information is more important for astronomers than for average people like us, but to satisfy our curiosity, let’s imagine that we want to observe Mars through our telescope tonight, good if we have the correct date, and our location in space, we manage to find it based on information from the Prague Astronomical Clock, for this, the pointer we must look at is the one whose tip is a golden star.

Yes, it’s a bit complicated to understand, almost holistic knowledge, but it should make sense to astronomers.

First Display: The Celestial Bodies

In addition to the time, the first display also offers information about different celestial bodies. In addition to the Golden Hand pointer, I have already mentioned that there is also a miniature of the Sun at its base, which displays more information than just Babylonian time.

The Sun pointer sits on top of a darker circle with horoscope symbols and thus informs which sign we are under during the year.

In the center of the clock, it is possible to see a circle, representing the Earth, following the hands that come out of it, it is possible to see where the Sun and the Moon are positioned in comparison to the Earth.

The Moon is represented here by a silver ball, this ball even shows which phase of the Moon we are in, and it changes color.

Now let’s go to the Bass Display.

Second Display: Calendar

The bottom circle works like a calendar. On the outside of the calendar, in the circle that surrounds this entire display, it marks the days of the year, you can follow the golden pointer and you will be able to see the day. You need to get very close to see this information because the names of the days are written very small, it is difficult to see from far away

Inside this circle with the names of the days of the year, there are several other circles with different images, each one representing a month of the year.

The images represent different tasks that people usually do throughout the year, to make it easier to visualize. This calendar is called the Agricultural Calendar.

Below the months, there are smaller circles, showing the different zodiacs, again. In the center of the Display, there is a single circle with a drawing of a Golden Castle, representing the city of Prague.


Okay, now you know how to tell the time on the Prague Astronomical Clock, it’s not a Cassio, but it’s good enough.

Jokes aside, the difference between an Astronomical Clock is precisely this ability to deliver much more than just the hours, they were a reference point in the daily lives of our ancestors, providing accurate information on annual and astrological events that would otherwise, the common citizen would often not have access.

They organized the lives of people and society at a time when not even the way of telling time was universal.

Today, we look at the time on digital watches, which are often on the wrists or pockets of anyone on the street. We don’t need to think much to be able to understand the information on the digital displays, but even so, the old but never obsolete Prague Astronomical Clock, moves thousands of people every day, who cross the ocean just to admire this brilliant creation, made by even more brilliant minds!

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