The Sundial Protecting Prague

Tourists in Prague know of the cable car that takes them up to the top of Petrin Hill. Some also stop in the park which contains the cable car. Few are aware of a sundial in this park that protects Prague during the day.

The Kinsky Park is a huge 22-hectare green space in the city. On sunnier days, it is packed with people and is a lovely picnic spot. Since it is set on a hill, you have a beautiful view of the city from the top.

There is a lake at the top of the hill, to the left of the cable car. Quietly watching over the park is a sundial. Unlike normal sundials which have a single facade, this one has four. I think this is the first multi-facade sundial I’ve ever seen.

The southern-western facade of the dial faces the city and contains a niche with a statue of St Rocco. Roman Catholics pray to him for protection against the Plague. Legend has it that he cured many people of this disease through prayer. [1] His staff creates a shadow that marks the time from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm.

A photo of St Rocco on a sundial - Prague, Czechia

St Rocco on a sundial

The north-western facade shows St Sebastian, an arrow plunged into his chest. He is always portrayed with arrows because the Romans killed him by using him as target practice. In the seventh century, Roman Catholics prayed to him for protection against the plague too. They believed the plague was spread by arrows shot from the heavens so the imagery was not lost on them. [2] St Sebastian’s arrow creates a shadow to mark the time from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm.

A photo of St Sebastian on a sundial - Prague, Czechia

St Sebastian

In this manner, Prague is protected from the plague throughout the day by one saint or another.

On the eastern facade, there is an image of Christ on the cross. The spear in his side marks the time from 4:00 am to 2:00 pm.

A Photo of the Crucifix on a sundial - Prague, Czechia

The Crucifix on a sundial

Lastly, St Rosalia faces west holding roses and lilies. She was the daughter of a Sicilian Lord of the Roses which explains the flowers she holds [3]. She marks the time from 4:00pm to 8:00pm

A photo of St Rosalie on a sundial - Prague, Czechia

St Rosalie

The sundial is best seen in summer when the long summer days are clearly marked by the various saintly figures. The figure of Christ on the cross is a powerful Catholic symbol that implies the start of a new beginning. It faces east where the sun rises, promising a new day, so this imagery is not coincidental, I’m sure.

What sun dials capture your eye in your town or city? Leave a message below and let us know!


[1] St Rocco’s Feast, Who is St Rocco
[2] Catholic Online, St Sebastian
[3] Catholic Online, St Rosalia

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