Gog and Magog
These mythological giants take time out of their busy day guarding a Victorian market to let you know what time it is.
As you walk through the Royal Arcade in Melbourne’s Central Business District (the CBD), if you arrive at the top of the hour you’ll hear Gaunt’s Clock alerting you to the time. Follow the chimes and look up and you’ll see two statues flanking the clock dial, imaginings of mythical giants named Gog and Magog.
Since 1892, these two medieval warriors have watched over the southern side of the arcade, striking the chimes with their mechanical arms. Each is about seven feet tall, and carved from pine by a man named Mortimer Godfrey. He modeled the two on similar figures that watch over Guildhall in London, where the same characters have been the guardians of the city since the 15th century.
The mechanical statues stand on either side of Gaunt’s Clock, a feature that was added to the Arcade about 20 years after it was built. Thomas Gaunt, a well-known Melbourne jeweler, watch and clock maker, had a shop in the Royal Arcade, and adding a prominent time piece with a couple of mythical giants could only be good for business.
Although variations of the characters of Gog and Magog appear in many ancient texts, including the Old Testament and the Quran, these two are actually a jumble of several religious stories and pagan myths, more grounded in medieval lore than the Bible. As the display itself will tell you (slightly editing here), “These two … symbolise the conflict between the ancient Britons and the Trojan invaders… having been captured in battle… and made to serve as porters at the gateway of an ancient palace on a site later occupied by the Guildhall.”
So they’re a little bit biblical, a little bit Roman, a little bit pagan, and a little bit medieval. Everything good giants should be.
Know Before You Go
The Royal Arcade is in Melbourne, in what's known as the CBD (the Central Business District). The clock and figures are located on the southern entrance to the Arcade, which can be accessed via Bourke Street Mall, or Little Collins Street.
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