Vienna’s history repeats daily

The center of Vienna houses an old clock. Every day at midday its inhabitants start dancing on a variety of music. I just had to check it out. I feel like a child in anticipation of the Punch and Judy show. But this is the Austrian version.

The Anker clock was built by an Insurance company in 1914. Designer and builder Franz von Matsch wanted to show the transience of life (and how important life insurance is) with this art nouveau piece. I guess advertising was big business back then as well.

The clock is more than just that though. It’s homage to people from the history of Vienna. Every hour one of these people waltzes through the clock. So what do you need to do to end up dancing in a clock for eternity? Who are these people? I did some research and found out they’re not just any people.

One o’clock shows the roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, aka Augustus. This man has not only been immortalized in this clock, but is used in the dictionary and has a bust of gold. Two o’clock makes room for Charles the great. Three o’clock shows duke Leopold the sixth, under whose rule Vienna got city rights. Singer and poet Walther von der Vogelweide comes out at 4.

Of course the Habsburg family has a place in the clock. They ruled Austria until 1918. Rudolf von Habsburg was the first Habsburg king and was chosen to represent his family in the timepiece. A king doesn’t shape a country by himself, the buildings gives a city a certain feel. In Vienna the Stephansdom is ruler of the cityscape. Hans Puchsbaum was a big contributor to the construction of the cathedral and that got him hour six. Founder of Vienna as a city of music, emperor Maximilian the first, marches across the scene at 7 o’clock.

At 8 I hear a tune I recognise. It is used for the Dutch holiday Sinterklaas and I’ve Always thought it was Original. Turns out we stole the melody from the Austrian ‘o du lieber Augustin’. A disillusion. This hour is dedicated to Johann Andreas von Liebenberg, once mayor of Vienna and the man who prepared the city for the invasion of the Turks. Nine o’clock has to do with the same historic event and belongs to count Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg, who defended Vienna at this same invasion.

Prins Eugen von Savoyen was an advisor and diplomat for the emperor, who had castle Belvedere built as a summer-house. He gets hour ten. The eleventh hour is for the imperial couple Maria Theresia en Franz. Besides giving birth to 16 children, Maria Theresia managed to save some time for big reforms. And after all these people, the master of music enters the stage. Joseph Haydn parades around the clock on one of his 100 symphonies

Such history! And all of that in Vienna’s Punch and Judy show. I see one dad with a pram in the audience. Other than that I see many people with cameras and a map of the city, eyes looking up. I only have one question left; do they play this loud theatre at 12AM as well?




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