Daily Necessities

These 6 Historic Clock Towers in Europe Will Inspire You to Go Analog

June 07,2024 by Matthew Bell

From ancient sundials to pocket watches to iPhones, timekeeping devices have been integral parts of our day-to-day lives for thousands of years. In the middle ages, many Western European cities invested in the construction of large-scale clock towers, which would be situated in a central location and serve as the city’s principal timepiece. While few people today seek out their local clock tower when they need to check the time, the sculptural structures are beloved architectural landmarks in cities across the world. We’ve gathered six of Europe’s most iconic clock towers below.

Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italy

Completed in the early 1300s, Florence’s Old Palace is attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio and served as the seat of the city’s government for centuries. The first clock was added to the tower in 1353 and was operated by a sundial. In the 17th century, a Galileo-inspired pendulum was installed in the back of the clock to regulate time.

Big Ben, London

The name Big Ben was originally given to the hour bell and only later became synonymous with the entire structure, one of the most recognizable in the world. And speaking of the hour bell, did you know it chimes in the note E?

St Mark’s Clocktower, Venice

In 1493 the Venetian senate commissioned Zuan Carlo Rainieri of Reggio Emilia to create a new clock for the city center. Now more than half a millennium later, Rainieri’s construction—with its lapis lazuli face and gold astrological ornamentation—is one of the most famous landmarks in all of Venice.

Spasskaya Tower, Moscow

On the border of Red Square stands the Spasskaya Tower, a landmark so revered that many once believed it possessed powers and protected the Kremlin from enemy invasion. The first clock was installed on the tower in the 17th century and was designed by Christopher Galloway. The present-day timepiece was crafted in the mid-19th century by the Butenop brothers.

Old Town Hall Tower, Prague

Prague’s awe-inspiring astronomical clock was built in 1410 by Mikuláš of Kadaň and enhanced later in the century by master Hanuš of Růže. As legend has it, Prague councilmen had master Hanuš blinded after the clock’s completion to prevent him from building a comparable timepiece. At the top of every hour (between 9 a and 11 images of the 12 apostles and their respective attributes appear in the tower’s small windows.

Zytglogge, Bern, Switzerland

A clock tower roundup wouldn’t be complete without a timepiece from Switzerland. The late-Baroque-style tower in Bern’s Old Town (a UNESCO World Heritage site) was built in 1530 and is one of the oldest clocks in the country. It originally served as the city’s master clock.

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