Medieval Inventions - The Clock
Egyptians were big on sundials. The Chinese favored water clocks.
In the early Middle Ages, time was first marked down the length
of a candle in hourly increments. Next
came large hour glasses, which were only good for an hour...or two.
Brother Gerbert, who later became Pope Sylvester II, invented a
simple mechanism in 966 that rang bells at regular intervals throughout
the day to call his brethren to prayer. It was the beginning of
mechanical clocks as we know them today.
cathedral towers were providing the
rest of the faithful with their first glimpse of a right proper
(although not always accurate) mechanical clock.
earliest of these is credited to Jacopo de Dondi, who designed an
astronomical clock for the cathedral tower in Padua in 1344. Curiously,
almost every zodiac sign surrounds the clock face except for the
balanced scales of Libra. (As the
story goes, it was deliberately left out of the lineup by guild
workers who felt they weren't treated fairly in salary negotiations.)
Cathedral's mechancial clock appeared in 1354, and was followed
by the third, and most elaborate mechanical clock, built in Prague's
Town Hall in 1410.
being the Middle Ages, the Prague clock depicted earth at the center
of the universe - with the sun, moon, and stars revolving around
it. Blue and red halves separated day and night. With embellishments
added over the centuries, today the clock remains a veritable funhouse
And it remains the city's most popular (and free) attraction, still
packing them in as a mechanical rooster loudly crows, signalling
the parade of the 12 Apostles, who enter from two open windows.
The hourly show winds down with a 'hour glass of life' running on
skeleton, rattling its ancient bones, finally ends the observance
that, an hour later, begins all over again as it has done for centuries.
out more related resources to this article on the Web:
Walk Through Time
Astronomical Clock - Prague