Tour books tell us that the best view of Prague comes from a 200-foot tower in the city’s Old Town. The tower has served many roles besides tourist attraction, though: weather station, clock, and astronomical observatory.
Klementinum tower was built in 1722. It’s part of a complex built beginning in the 1550s by Jesuit monks. They established a major university there. And while the university has moved on, the site is still home to the Czech Republic’s national library – considered one of the most beautiful in the world.
The tower became an observatory in 1751. It was founded by Joseph Stepling, a priest, mathematician, and astronomer. Three years earlier, he’d used a pair of eclipses to calculate the exact latitude and longitude of Prague. He acquired state-of-the art instruments for the observatory — many of which are on display today.
A few years later, observers began recording weather conditions — a practice that continues today. It’s one of the longest records of weather observations on the planet.
And in 1848, astronomers began keeping time for Prague. Sunlight entered the tower through a hole in the wall. The beam of light crossed a line inside the tower at noon. The astronomers then signaled the time to the rest of the city — first with flags, then with a cannon.
Klementinum tower was restored a few years ago. Today, it’s one of the top attractions in Prague — a spot that’s always offered a great view.
Script by Damond Benningfield