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The Old Town Astronomical Clock

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"The Old Town Astronomical Clock has been telling the time on the south side of the Town Hall Tower for almost six hundred years. The Originak simple clock was constructed before 1410 by Mikulas of Kadan, but at the end of the fifteenth century it was altered and perfected by Master Hanus of Ruze, who turned it into a unique work unparalledled elsewhere in Europe. Naturally, the Old Town councillors were very proud of the clock, and consequently dismayed when rumours began to circulate that Master Hanus had received comissions from elsewhere, abd was sitting in his parlour long into the night, calculating and drawing something. What else could it be but a clocl even finer and more perfect, but destined for some other city? And what then would become of the glory of the Old Town Clock? The councillors began to rack their brains to think of a way to make sure that the Master would never make another clock for anyone. They thought long and hard, but nothing seemed safe enough, neither offering him money, nor seeking to extort a written bond or solem promise. The one of the councillors, a cruel and hard-hearted man, came up with an idea that first apalled all the others. It was a dire plan, but one concillor after another gradullay came round to the view that it was the only way to ensure that the Prague clock would remain unique forever.


One night, Master Hanus was suttng at ome poring over his plans and sketches. It was late, his assistant and his housekeeper had left hours earlier, and the master was alone in the house. Outside t had started to rain, but insude it was wamrn and cosy. The flickering candlelight drew it's own strange figrures on the walls, the fire balzed in the hearth and sometimes a beech log would cracked in the silence. Master Hanus bent over his parchments with their columns of tiny figure, calculations and complicated diagrams, sometimes raising his grey head, thinking for a moment and then writing another note, or corossing the last one out with a frown. He was thinking of how to improve the Old Town Clock, and inventing new, even more extraordinary components for it.

Suddenly there was a sharp knock on at the main door and a voice called out,

"Open up, we are in haste!"

The master hurried to the door and slid the heavy bolt from the lock. In the rectangle of darkness he made out the tall figures of three masked men, who rushed at him and dragged him back into his parlour. They gagged him, and two of them held him down, while the third went to the hearth, thrust a dagger into the flames and waited until it glowed red hot. Realsing what the men intended to do, Master Hanus let out stifled scream and fainted with horror. He awoke in unutterable agony, he knew he was laying in his own bed, and he could hear the voice of his assistant and the lamentations of his housekeeper, but he saw only darkness. He was blinded.

For a long time Master Hanus lay sick, either delirious or spending the whole day in a swoon. His sight was lost forever. When he had recovered a little, he would sit in his parlour and try to thinkwho could have so terrible a thinkg and why? Until one day his assistant came back from the Town Hall where he had been cleaning and maintaining the clock and told his master he had overheard two councillors conversing. They had been congratulating themselves on a job well done, saying that there was no danger whatever that Master Hanus would ever make another stronomical clock.

Thus the master discovered who it was that had ordered him to be blinded. He no longer felt pain, just and abysmal bitterness and misery at the way he had been rewarded for his peerless masterpiece. After bitterness came anger and the desire for revenge, followed by a plan to pay his former employers back. One day he told his assistant he would like to go to the town hall so that he might at least feel his beloved clock beneath his fingers, stroke its cogs and wheels, and hear it's whirr and tick. His assistant was glad to guide him there.

When they stood in front of the great machine, the master gently touched it's parts with his fingers, listened to the sounds of the mechanism, and stroked the metal and wood with his palms. His face lit up, and tears sprang tofrom his extinguished eyes. In his mind's eye he cold see the whole complex mechanism before him, each part neatly interlocking with the others, down to the last detail. He reached an experienced hand into the machinery, and pulled at a gear with all his might until it snapped. The started to cland, scrape and rattle, until it's sounds faded away into an ominous silence. And in that silence the masters hear broke and he fell lifeless to the ground.

The clock seemed broken for good. It was to be many years before someone was found who could mend it. And throughout those years, the terrifying silence of the clock continually reminded the councillors of their dreadful deed."


Taken from "77 Prague Legends" by Alena Jezkova. Copyright 2006. Prah books. ISBN 80-7252-139-X

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Taken on January 16, 2009