This summer I visited some Central European countries, like Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.
I’ve had my portion of culture there, I visited a lot of churches and enjoyed the finest food. But the biggest surprise was in the city Olomouc, when having a cup of coffee on the main square, where I was looking for the Holy Trinity Column, I accidentally discovered the Olomouc astronomical clock. It wasn’t mentioned in my travel-guide!
Suddenly my cultural voyage turned into a “Geek Travel“; I knew that Prague (with a very famous astronomical clock) was also on my travelling-plan, but actually I’ve seen that one some years ago. The Olomouc Astronomical Clock was unknown to me.
Olomouc, the former capital of Moravia in the eastern part of the Czech Republic, also has an impressive exterior astronomical clock on the main town square. It is a rare example of a heliocentric astronomical clock.
Dating originally from 1420, the clock was remodelled approximately once every century. When the retreating Nazi German army passed through Olomouc in the final days of the war in May 1945 they opened fire on the old astronomical clock, leaving only a few pieces (that can now be seen in the local museum). As a result of the serious damage the clock was reconstructed in the style of socialist-realism in the first years of communist rule in Czechoslovakia (1948-early 1950s). The religious and royal figures were replaced with athletes, workers, farmers, scientists and other members of the proletariat, while the glockenspiel was altered to play three pieces of traditional local music.
The lower dial represents the earthly sphere and indicates minute, hour, day, month, year and phase of the moon. The upper dial represents the heavenly sphere and shows a star map, the sun, earth and planets against a background of the twelve houses of the zodiac. The third and highest level is where the saints and apostles once paraded during the daily musical display (at noon). Their role is now performed by faded-looking volleyball players, auto mechanics and factory workers.
The intricate background mosaic covers the clock’s entire height of 14 metres and has representations of the twelve seasons and two traditional festivals; the ride of the kings and the procession of maidens.
The Olomouc astronomical clock was featured in the opening scenes of the film “The Joke” based on the book by Milan Kundera.
Okay, here is that opening scene:
The three “pieces of traditional local music” are
- a hymn by Josef Haná “On the Hill, beyond Námèsf”
- The Long and Winding Road to Olomouc
- The Willows are in Bloom
The waiter at the restaurant told me that the clock would play at 12 every day, so I came back the next day to hear it. And of course I had my HTC ready to film it:
(Probably you should skip to 1’40)
The Tourist Information centre supplied me with an information leaflet, that told me more about the history of the clock. Probably the clock was built in 1474, but it has been destroyed several times. Here is a picture of the clock in 1747:
The latest restoration of the clock took place in 1947-1955 by Karel Svolinsky. He gave the clock – still not considered as a monument by the local Monuments Institution! – a socialist-realistic appearance.