The History of Glockenspiel Clocks
Glockenspiel clocks originated in Europe and were frequently placed on the town square or city plaza where passersby could enjoy them. In addition to being architecturally unique, Glockenspiel clocks sport moving figurines that, at different times of the day, enact a play or skit that is important to the town’s history. In addition to the figurines, glockenspiel clocks also make music and include carillons of cast bronze bells.
One of the most famous glockenspiel clocks is located at the front of the Rathaus on Marienplatz in Munich, Germany. Built at the beginning of the 19th century, the glockenspiel clock is the largest in Germany.
The glockenspiel clock celebrates two different events from Munich’s past. One scene shows barrelmakers, or coopers, dancing in memory of the end of the black plague in 1517, and the other scene is jousting knights re-enacting a tournament that took place at Duke Wilhelm V’s royal wedding. During the summer, the performance is held at 11 a.m., Noon, and 5 pm, and the glockenspiel clock has become a “must-see” tourist attraction with hundreds of visitors waiting to see the shows.
Contemporary Use of Glockenspiel Clocks
A more contemporary example of a glockenspiel clock can be found in Schonlau park in New Ulm, Minnesota. This glockenspiel clock is a free-standing carillon clock tower with bells that plays a melody in Westminster style every hour. Dedicated in 1980, the tower stands 45 feet high, holds a carillon of 37 fully chromatic bronze bells and can be played either electronically or with a keyboard. The glockenspiel clock’s twelve animated figures are designed to convey the community’s rich heritage, and they perform their “play” at Noon, 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm each day. These figures are also interchangeable with a nativity scene that can be enjoyed by the community during the Christmas holiday season.
Other glockenspiel clocks can be found in Kentucky, several locations throughout Michigan, in Pella, Iowa and even in the Central Park Children’s Zoo in New York. Regardless of where they are located, a community’s rich heritage and cultural symbols are honored and memorialized while families, residents and tourists are delighted by the unique presence of a glockenspiel clock.
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