Besançon’s Astronomical Clock

The astronomical clock of the St. Jean Cathedral in Besançon, France, is one of the most complex horological inventions in existence.  This magnificent clock has over 30,000 parts, allowing it to tell tide times in eight different French ports, measure the daily sunrise and sunset, keep track of the time in seventeen cities across the world, and have a functioning leap-year calendar.

The clock was completed in 1860 by Auguste-Lucien Vérité after two years of construction. Once installed in the cathedral, it required an additional three years of adjustments before the clock worked properly!  The clock has been renovated twice, in 1900 and in 1966.

After the success of this clock, Vérité went on to build a larger astronomical clock in his hometown of Beauvais.  The clock was made to register up to 10,000 years, which will likely be long past its own lifespan.

It’s no surprise to find such an unusual time piece in Besançon. The city, located in the Franche-Comté region, has been the watchmaking capital of France since the end of the eighteenth century, due in part to its close proximity to Switzerland.  In addition to Vérité’s astronomical clock, tourists can also visit the Museum of Time, which showcases the successful history of clock-making in the region.

Guided tours are offered in French, but English-speaking tourists can follow along thanks to a pamphlet that covers the history of the clock .  There is a small fee, 3€, to enter.  The clock currently resides in its own room in the cathedral right behind the entrance to the Residence Charles Quint, which was the first hotel of the father of Sojourner Tours co-owner.

Written by Kayleigh Thomas.


One thought on “Besançon’s Astronomical Clock

  1. Wow this is interesting. Did not know of this astronomical clock…but then yes you are right it should not be surprising because it is close to the Swiss French side where lots of horological centers are located too!

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