The Prague astronomical clock, commonly known as the ‘Orloj’, will reopen in the last week of September after 9 months of reconstruction. The repairs were the first complete dismantling of the clock since the end of the Second World War and the process even revealed some hidden secrets now visible to the public.
One of Prague’s most popular tourist attractions, the astronomical clock on Old Town Square, has been undergoing restoration since January 2018. Now Lukáš Stránský of Prague City Hall has announced that the Orloj is to reopen at 6pm on the 28th of September, a Czech bank holiday known as St. Wenceslas Day.
The aim of the reconstruction was not just to repair the various components of the clock, but also to restore it as much as possible to its historical appearance, replacing some of the features that were added in the 20th century with original Medieval and Baroque components. Sculptor Petr Skála, who took part in the reconstruction, says that any tourist or citizen of Prague will notice the changes.
“The soffit has been painted with a starlit sky, as was originally the case in the 19th century. The colour of the astrolabe has also changed slightly. Mánes’ calendar plate has been replaced with a new copy, which is closer to the original than that of the post-war version”.
A stone statue of a lion, which was discovered underneath the calendar plate during the reconstruction process, will now be visible to onlookers as well.
Mariana Nesnídalová is the executive head of L. Hainz, the company which has been carrying out regular reconstructions of the astronomical clock since 1865, when the business’ owner used his position as city councillor to secure himself the lucrative restoration contract. She says that significant work was done on the interior of the clock as well.
“This was the most complex reconstruction since the end of the war. The cable wheels, which burned down during the war, have been brought back and the metal windows, through which the apostles pass, have been replaced with ones made out of stained glass, which was the original version, so technically you can now see a bit inside the clock.”
The now replaced metal windows were introduced in the 1970s. They were one of the many changes made to the Prague astronomical clock in the 20th century.
Had the Prague City Hall not blocked proposals made by Czech sculptor, Vojtěch Sucharda, during the 1948 reconstruction, the clock may have looked very different today. As letters discovered in the apostle statues revealed.
According to the Czech News Agency, the complete reconstruction cost the Prague City Hall CZK 61.2 million and involved around 15 craftsmen.