THE OLD TOWN HALL

The Old Town received municipality in 1234 but the citizens of the Old Town had to wait another hundred years for the privilege and the symbol of self-government, the Town Hall, which was authorized by King Jan of Luxembourg in the year 1338. Furthermore, they purchased the corner house of Wolfin z Kamene, built an additional floor, expanded the house and built a Town Hall tower (1364). In 1381, a beautiful Gothic chapel, designed by the building works of Petr Parléř, was founded inside the 70m high tower. During this century, new houses were connected to the main Town Hall building and so, today’s complex consists of several connected houses from different periods. Next to the original House of Wolfin there is a House of Kříž and it has a beautiful Renaissance window from 1520 with the inscription, “Praga caput regni” (Prague the head of the kingdom), which is an emblem of the Old Town and it became the symbol of the whole Prague in the 18th century. The main point of the new Town Hall was the Councillor Hall and this was where the City Council made decisions and it was also a place where municipal courts were held. In addition, some of the most important historic decisions were made here, for example, in 1457 the Czech nobleman, Jiří z Poděbrad, who was elected as king. At the end of the southern side of the Town Hall there is the house that was originally Gothic, U Minuty, and it is distinguished by its sgraffito and it displays of biblical themes and Greek mythology. This house is of significance because the world known author of the Prague German School, Franz Kafka, lived in this house in the years 1889-1896. The Town Hall also had a Neo-Gothic wing built in the 19th century by the architect, Nobil. However, this part of the Town Hall was destroyed at the end of WWII but an observant visitor can notice the torso of the wings.
The Orloj (the Astronomical clock) on the south side of the Town Hall is the main touristic attraction. It was assembled before 1410 by the clockmaker, Mikuláš z Kadaně, in collaboration with the mathematician and astronomer, Jan Štindel, who was, among others, a classmate of Jan Hus. The current form of the Orloj was made around a hundred years later by the master, Jan Hanuš, who was long regarded as the creator of the clock. The Orloj consists of three separate units: the movement of the Apostles, the Calendar and a Sphere.
Every hour in the day the 12 Apostles parade through two windows with their typical attributes: Peter, Matthew, John, Andrew, Philip, James, Paul, Thomas, Simon, Thaddeus, Bartholomew and Barnabas, and below the apostles there are more moving statues. The parade of the apostles is first signaled by the Skeleton ringing the bell and it ends with the crowing Rooster. The skeleton, the symbol of death, is supposed to remind us that life has its end. Other statues include, the Turk, who shakes his head and symbolizes profligate life, the Prodigal, who looks at himself in the mirror, the Miser, who plays with a pouch full of money. There are four more non-moving statues at the bottom, which are the Angel and the three Townsmen and they symbolize the fair government of the city.
The next part of the Orloj is the Astronomic Sphere, which is based on the medieval ideas of Earth's location in the Universe. The clock shows four types of time: Central European - labelled with Roman numerals around the perimeter, Old Bohemian - labelled with the Gothic gold numbers, time of Babylon - labelled with Arabic numerals and sidereal time.
The last and the newest part of the Orloj is the rounded calendar, which turns around the stable centre with the Town Emblem, and every day it turns by one point of its 365 pointed gear. The calendar was painted by the famous Czech painter, Josef Mánes, and for the monthly symbols he used scenes from rural life.
Inside the building you can see, for example, the old hall with its wooden coffered ceiling and the large meeting hall, which houses large historical canvases by Václav Brožík, the chapel and another representative’s hall. The cross corridor on the ground floor is a place for frequent exhibitions of paintings and photographs.

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