Thursday, December 30, 2010

Oldest Clock in the Americas to Ring In New Year

On December 31 at midnight in Central America, the international Spanish-language TV stations Telemundo and Univision (along with CNN and NBC) will transmit the sound of the clock in the Cathedral in Comayagua striking midnight. Telemundo and Univision will broadcast from the Plaza in front of the Cathedral as part of a national celebration funded by the government of Honduras and the Alcaldia of Comayagua.

Why Comayagua? The clock mechanism in the Cathedral is said to be the oldest clock in the Americas. Photos of the mechanism show it uses a system of iron weights to power the escapement.

While the local history says the clock was built around 1100 A.D. (though some sources say 1374 A.D.), this kind of clock came into use in the 13th and 14th centuries in Europe. The clock is said to have been originally installed in the Alhambra, Islamic capital in Granada, Spain.

The official website of the city of Comayagua says the clock was a gift of the Duke of Consentania. Other sources say King Phillip II of Spain gave the clock as a gift. All agree the gift was to Jerónimo de Corella, the newly named Bishop of Comayagua. Corella was originally appointed Bishop of Trujillo, but in 1561 he arranged to have the bishopric transferred to Comayagua.

In 1586 the clock was installed in the church with today is called La Merced, but then was the Cathedral of Comayagua. In 1711 the clock was moved to the newly build Cathedral of Comayagua, where it remains today.

In 2007 the Instituto Hondureño de Antropología e Historia restored the clock as part of the renovations of the Cathedral of Comayagua. Part of the renovation involved constructing a new clock face, as the old one had deteriorated, though even that one is not the original clock face.

The clock, which must be wound every day, strikes quarter hours as well as the hour. The Cathedral bells the clock is connected to are 200 years old (La Emigdio) and 300 years old (La Concepcion), with the older bell being used to sound the hours.

So listen for this gem if you're watching television New Years eve.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, RNS. Interesting story.


Tambopaxi said...

Very cool and interesting story, RNS! My thanks as well for this fun read.