Located in the Strasbourg Cathedral, France, the historic Strasbourg astronomical clock is a Renaissance masterpiece assembled by various artists, mathematicians, and technicians, and it is considered as one of the largest in the world.
The clock is actually the third of its kind to stand in the spot.
The original clock was built in the 14th century (between 1352–1354) by an unknown tinker. It was known as the “Three Kings clock” and was equipped with various mechanical details that were very rare in that time.
The clock had several automata, including a gilded rooster, which is considered the oldest preserved automaton in the world and still preserved in a local museum. It also featured three Biblical kings, hence the name, who bowed before a figure of The Virgin Mary holding a baby Jesus in her arms.
When this clock stopped working in the 16th century, the entire structure was dismantled and the second clock was mounted on the opposite wall of the south transept. It was designed by the mathematician Christian Herlin and was notable for its complexity as an astronomical device with a rich decoration. It stopped working around 1788 and stood still for fifty years.
The actual clock was built between 1838 and 1843, by the famous French engineer and inventor, Jean-Baptiste Schwilgué, who produced numerous clocks for church towers. Besides the automata, the current clock shares many of the features of its two predecessors such as a perpetual calendar (including a Gregorian computus designed by Schwilgué), an orrery (planetary dial), a rotating display of the real position of the Sun and the Moon, and solar and lunar eclipses.
It also has a mechanism that shows the sign of the zodiac, equinoxes, leap years, and much more astronomical data which makes it a rather complex calculating machine.
The main attraction of the clock is its animated figures which perform a delightful show every day. At 12:30, the automatons start their show and small figures of the twelve Apostles parade before Christ, accompanied by the beating of wings and the sound of a large cock crowing.
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Just below that, other figures, which represent the different stages of life (a child, a teenager, an adult and an old man), parade past a figure of death. In front of the clock is the huge Pillar of Angels which represents the Last Judgment.