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Summary of the Apostles

točna Tomáš

Thomas the Apostle (Tomáš)

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He is considered as the patron of architects, builders, surveyor, carpenters, masons, stonecutters as well as theologians. He was born in Galilee and his original occupation was fishery. His story in the New Testament, which tells us that he doubted Jesus Christ’s resurrection when Jesus came to the Apostles because he had not been there and asked for evidence, gave him the surname “Doubting Thomas”. On the astronomical clock, he is depicted with a spear.

Juda Tadeáš

Jude Thaddaeus (Juda Tadeáš)

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Jude Thaddaeus is mentioned rarely in the New Testament. When depicted with all the Apostles, he almost always occupies a modest place. He is the patron of people in serious neediness and desperate situations. He is usually depicted with a club, stones, a pole-axe or a book.


Andrew (Ondřej)

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Andrew lived in his youth together with his younger brother Simon, the later Apostle Peter, in Kapernaum by the Lake of Gennesaret; they were both fishermen. Andrew became am apprentice of John the Baptist and joined Jesus Christ as the first Apostle. He is the patron of miners, ropemakers and brides. On the astronomical clock, he carries an X?shaped cross, also called “Saint Adrew’s Cross”.

Jakub Mladší

James (Jakub)

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There were two Jameses among the original Apostles. The so?called James the Greater, son of Zebedee, was brother of John the Apostle. He became the patron of warriors, workers, pharmacists and smiths. Even his contemporaries used to mistake him for the other James, so?called James the Lesser, Jesus Christ’s relative and son of Alphaeus. On the Prague Astronomical Clock in its present form, only one of them, James the Lesser, is present.


Barnabas (Barnabáš)

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Barnabas belonged to the broader group of 72 apprentices of Jesus Christ’s; however, he never met him. His original name was Joseph. He sold all his possessions and his mansion and dedicated the yield to Peter the Apostle for the needs of the Church. He accompanied Paul on his first missionary journey. He is worshipped as the patron by weavers and hoopers. On the astronomical clock, he is depicted with a skull and a papyrus.

Jan Evangelista

John the Evangelist (Jan Evangelista)

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John the Evangelist came from Bethsaida by the Lake of Gennesaret and he was, just as Peter and Andrew, a fisherman. His brother was James the Greater, another Apostle. He outlived all his fellow Apostles and he is also the only one to die naturally. He is the author of the fourth Gospel and of the apocalyptic Book of the Revelation to John, full of celestial visions. He has always belonged to very popular saints. He is the patron of theologians, clerks, notaries, typists, writers, booksellers, book printers, book binders, paper producers, wine-growers, butchers, saddle?makers, manufacturers of mirrors, engravers, chandlers, basket?makers and friendship. On the astronomical clock, he is depicted overmastering a snake emerging from a goblet.


Matthew (Matěj)

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Matthew belonged to the broader group of Jesus Christ’s disciples and was selected by lot to join the Apostles instead of Judas. He is the patron of building craftsmen, butchers, confectioners, smiths and tailors. He is depicted mostly with a book, a scroll, a sword or a spear and very frequently with an axe as the tool using which he was tortured to death. On the astronomical clock, he is depicted with the axe.


Peter (Petr)

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Peter was the first of the Apostles. The name is derived from the Greek word “petros”, which means “a rock”. His original name was Simon and he was a fisherman together with his brother, Andrew. By conversion to Latin, the name changed to Petrus (in Czech, finally, to Petr). He is the patron of popes, butchers, glassmakers, cabinetmakers, watchmakers, locksmiths, tinsmiths, smiths, moulders, potters, masons, brickmakers, bridge builders, stonecutters, fishnet?makers, drapers, fullers, fishermen and shipmen. According to the Bible, Jesus told him: “You are a rock, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Thus Petr became the first bishop and the leader of the Christian community. He is buried in a crypt in the St. Peter Cathedral in Vatican and his name is stated there as the first of the popes’ names. On the astronomical clock, he is depicted with a key.

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Bartholomew (Bartoloměj)

Bartholomew, by original name Nathanael, was born in Cana in Galilee and joined Jesus through Philip the Apostle. After Jesus Christ’s death, he disseminated Christianity in Armenia, India and Mesopotamia. He is the patron of miners, butchers, bookbinders, farmers, wine?growers, bakers, shepherds, saddle?makers, tanners, shoemakers and plasterers. On the astronomical clock, he is depicted with a book.


Simon the Apostle (Šimon)

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Simon is also called Zealot. He journeyed as a preacher and missionary together with Jude Thaddaeus to Syria, Mesopotamia and Persia. Hagiography tells us that he was beheaded or cut with a saw. That is why sawyers and woodmen chose him as their patron. Besides sawyers, he is also the patron of craftsmen working with leather, weavers and masons.


Paul (Pavel)

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Paul came from Jerusalem and his original name was Saul, which is the Greek for Paul. He did not belong to the original Apostles and he did not know Jesus in person. He nevertheless hated Christians, persecuted them and captured them. On one of his journeys, a bright light suddenly surrounded him, he was blinded and he heard a reproaching voice. When he came back to his sight after this mystical experience, he became not only a devoted Christian but also, according to preserved sources, the best disseminator and protector of Christianity ever. He journeyed all over the Roman Empire with the message of the new faith. His instructive texts and epistles that he sent to the first Christian communities have the form of antique letters and form a significant part of the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament. He is the patron of catholic press, theologians and spiritual stewards but also of female workers, glassmakers and shipmen. On the astronomical clock, he is depicted with a book and a sword.


Philip (Filip)

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The name Philip is of a Greek origin and it means that his bearer is an “adorer of horses” (philos and hippos). Together with Andrew, they were the only Apostles with Greek names. Jesus chose him himself. He is the patron of hatters, shopkeepers, fullers, pate?makers, tanners and confectioners. He is usually depicted with a book or a scroll. On the astronomical clock, he holds a cross.

The order of the sculptures

The sculptures appear in the left and right window of the astronomical clock in this order (viewed from the square):
  1. James a Peter
  2. Andrew a Matthew
  3. Jude Thaddaeus a Philip
  4. Thomas a Pavel
  5. John the Evangelist a Simon
  6. Barnabas a Bartholomew

Who are the Apostles?

The term Apostles represents not only the original twelve disciples of Jesus Christ’s but also, in more extensive meaning, the other 72 original followers and supporters of the new doctrine. The Prague astronomical clock has 12 figures, for which the term “Apostles” is used. The current set of wooden sculptures was created by the sculptor Vojtěch Sucharda (1884–1968), who had already renovated the former sculptures. After fire in 1945–1948, he created a new set. He wanted to approach the sculptures in a completely new way; however, within specifications of his job, he was allowed to shift the aspects and attributes of the saints towards the symbology of traditional crafts.

Skupina apoštolů na točněSkupina apoštolů na levé točněSkupina apoštolů na levé točně

It is not known what the original sculptures, which suffered damage in the course of time and were replaced several times, looked like. Presumably (and some earlier sources mention it), a sculpture of Jesus Christ was a part of the set. Rare photographic documentation from the beginning of the 20th century suggests that, bearing in mind changes of the attributes of the sculptures, one of them can be considered to be Jesus Christ. However, the total number of 12 sculptures has always been maintained.

Pohon + vačka otáčení figur

Turning of the Apostles in the window

As a matter of interest from a technical point of view, we will show a detail of the movement of the Apostles, attached at the ends of the arms of the motion mechanism in such a manner that they can rotate. Each of the two supporting wheels driven by a chain has 6 arms with a gap between the first and the last one. The sculptures are returned to the rest position of a “walking Apostle” by a spring. One of the springs is visible on the first arm from the left. At the moment when the sculpture is shifted behind the window, the rotating lever seats onto the shaped guide which can be seen in the upper left picture. This causes a smooth rotation of the sculpture towards the window and back.

The original mechanism was even more complex, as the rotation of some of the sculptures was accompanied by other motions. Peter raised his right hand, Paul nodded and Thomas shook his head. Rosický stated in his interpretation of the time that Peter swore, Paul agreed and Thomas did not believe. The pre﷓war sculptures were presumably hollow and thus allowed installation of other mechanisms. The current sculptures are not hollow and, regrettably, they do not make any other moves.

Text & photo: Stan. Marušák

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