Every day at noon, twelve chimes are hammered out by little “communists” at the Olomouc Astronomical Clock in Olomouc, Prague. The clock was originally built during the medieval era between 1419-1422, roughly a decade after its sister astronomical clock (Orloj) in Prague. In the original clock design religious and royal automata came out on the hour to chime the bells in a series of holy tones. But on May 7th 1945, in an act of pure malice, German troops opened fire on the clock, destroying the town’s prized clock.
The clock stayed in ruins for a few years before artist Karel Svolinshy and his wife Maria began fixing it. On repairing the clock Svolinshy and his wife decided the religious and royal figures no longer made sense for the newly communistic country and the clock was redesigned and reconstructed in the then popular Social-Realism style. The only original part left after the reconstruction was the clock mechanism from 1898 which Konrad Schuster, the master clockmaker, repaired.
Upon completion the Olmouc clock had a very different look from its medieval sister clock in Prague. Instead of saints and kings, miniature proletarians such as labors, farmer, athletes and factory workers all toiled for the common good on the astronomical clock. Every figure is a “good communist,” and at noon, tiny blacksmiths rung a set of bells in tunes based on local folk music.
Below this somewhat comical display are two larger than life figures rendered in mosaic: an auto mechanic and a scientist who stand on either side of a massive green wheel with white and red lines. Religion was not struck from the clock completely and the white lines denote saint’s days such as St Martin’s Day on November 11th, while the red lines commemorate significant dates in the communist calendar such as the death dates of Stalin and Gottwald, the communist president of Czechoslovakia. (Stalin and Gottwald died two weeks apart in 1953, apparently Gottwald caught a cold while at Stalin’s funeral and died shortly thereafter.)
The reconstructed clock was unveiled in 1955 to much town pride. Ironically, the clock which was redesigned to cast off the old ways and get with the new Communist spirit is a now a relic of a former era, and has once again “fallen behind the times.”
Know Before You Go
The Anstromonical Clock is located on the Northwestern wall of the Town Hall which is in the main square in town. You can get their on tram 4 or 6.
- The Astronomical Clock
- Czech and Moravian Astronomical Clocks
- Olomouc Town Hall
- http://www.discoverczech.com/olomouc/town-hall.php4 Olomouc Town Hall