One of the Most Complex Time Measuring Devices in the World

By | January 27, 2017

Spotted in the cathedral of the old French watchmaking capital of Besançon is the astronomical clock of Besançon. It was created in 1860 by clockmaker Auguste-Lucien Vérité of Beauvais to change an earlier model made by Bernardin in the 1850s.

The clock, expressing a theological idea, states that each second of the day is an epitome of the Resurrection of Christ, who has converted the existence of mankind and of the world.

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It is said that the first astronomical clock was set up in Besançon. It was made by a clockmaker named Bernardin, who most likely lived between 1851 and 1857, came from Fougerolles and lived in Saint-Loup-sur-Semouse.

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Bernardin’s clock had ceased working by 1857. Cardinal Mathieu, the Archbishop of Besançon, authorized a replacement from Vérité. Apparently, he meticulously worked on building one of his finest creation in his workshop in Beauvais.

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In 1860, the Besançon clock was installed, but Vérité continued to enhance it until 1863. When he finished the Besançon assignment, Vérité immediately built an even larger, and quite unique, clock for the Beauvais Cathedral.

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Amazingly enough, the clock has 30,000 mechanical parts. It measures 2.5 meters wide by 5.8 meters high and located in its private chambers in the clock tower.

With a complicated arrangement of universal joints stretching more than 100 meters, the clock engages four dials that are found on the four sides of the cathedral’s tower. It provides the time of day to the citizens of the city in four positions.

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A fifth dial for the time of day is found in the cathedral. The outside dials show as well the month, the day, the hour and the season. The hours of the day are detected by the sound of a bell in the clock tower.

Bernardin’s clock may have provided a remarkable difference from the norm for Vérité, but other than Vérité’s general influence, no specific element of the clock seems to have been replicated from earlier ones.

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In 1900, the clock stopped working. This was completely refurbished by Florian Goudey.

Again, the clock stopped in 1966 with the death of Paul Brandibas, who had been keeper of the clock for more than thirty years. This time, the renovation of the clock was done by Ungerer Company of Strasbourg.