The pride of the people of Rouen, the astronomic clock lays on a Renaissance arch spanning the busy street of rue du Gros-Horloge. This popular tourist landmark in the old town of Rouen is flanked by a Gothic belfry from the 14th century.
Gros-Horloge, the pride of Rouen
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Running between the Gothic cathedral made famous by Claude Monet and the old market square where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake is a pedestrianised street called ‘Rue du Gros-Horloge’. This quaint street with many timber-framed buildings is named after Le Gros Horloge, a Renaissance clock set in an arch over the street. The clock’s movement was made in 1389, and installed in the adjacent belfry that was constructed at the same time. The bells in the belfry were the first set of municipal bells in Rouen. At this time there was no dial to the clock. With the construction of the arch between 1527 and 1529, the clock was moved to the arch and attached to two identical dials – one on each side of the arch. Each dial is about two and a half meters in diameter.
The dials are rich in astronomical symbolism. A single hand points out the hour of the day, moving over 24 golden sun-rays and encircled by a blue starry night. The phases of the moon are indicated on a small sphere directly above the dial. On the opposite side, below the hour of VI, a panel reveals the day of the week, symbolised by the god of the day: Monday is represented by the Moon, Tuesday by Mars, Wednesday by Mercury for Wednesday, Thursday by Jupiter, Venus by Friday, Saturday by Saturn and Apollo indicates Sunday.
Le Gros Horloge: Renaissance Time in Rouen
Though it’s been run by an electric mechanism since the early 20th century, the old clockwork mechanism from the 1300s is still there, in situ, and is theoretically still in good working order if it were to be hitched back up. It was one of the earliest clocks to sound bells at the quarter of the hour, not just on the hour. The two clock faces also have black and silver globes above them that display the phase of the moon.
The Great Clock of Rouen (has photos of inside of clock tower)