I spent last weekend in Prague, Czech Republic—a wonderful place. One of the most famous tourist attractions in the city is the Prague Astrological Clock or Prague Orloj built in the 15th Century. The clock was a remarkable feat of engineering in its day for its multiple features, including a display of the position of the sun and the moon, and a monthly calendar.
As I rode through Prague’s Old Town Square on my excellent bike tour my guide enlightened me about the clock’s dark history.
Some historians dispute this story, but who knows what information you can trust these days. So lets embrace the juicy story of this clock, as told by my Czech tour guide.
Clock Master Hanuš built the clock, commissioned by the councillors of Prague. Master Hanuš was an engineering visionary for his era. People of the time may have seen him as a Steve Jobs type figure.
The fantastic clock helped Prague grow into a hot tourist attraction—much like it is today, minus the club scene and centuries-old Jewish cemetery. Unfortunately, the mayor of Prague became paranoid that the clock master would be recruited to build another fantastic clock in a different city. A competing clock in a another city could hurt Prague’s tourism business, so the mayor took drastic action.
To prevent the clock master from building any new clock towers the mayor hired an anonymous henchman who gouged the clock master’s eyes out and cut out his tongue. The clock master then holed himself up in an apartment for many years, helpless and dejected, until one day someone divulged to him that the mayor had been behind the abduction.
The clock master vowed revenge. Killing the mayor would have been difficult for a blind man with no tongue, but he had a better idea anyways—an idea that would have a more dramatic and lasting impact.
Clock Master Hanuš committed suicide. He jumped off the top of the tower into the heart of clock’s mechanical innards jamming its mechanisms and disabling it. It would take a century before a new clock master finally repaired it.
Question 1: Have you ever wanted to destroy a machine?
Question 2: Do you prefer wearing a watch?