Clockwork Prayer: a 16th-Century Religious Robot

#History

Tue, Jul 19th, 2011 20:00 by capnasty NEWS

Website BlackBird, of the Virginia Commonwealth University, has this article on a 400-year-old self-acting automaton doing the mea culpa, while holding a cross and a rosary.

From the article:

In the Smithsonian Institution is a sixteenth-century automaton of a monk, made of wood and iron, 15 inches in height. Driven by a key-wound spring, the monk walks in a square, striking his chest with his right arm, raising and lowering a small wooden cross and rosary in his left hand, turning and nodding his head, rolling his eyes, and mouthing silent obsequies. From time to time, he brings the cross to his lips and kisses it. After over 400 years, he remains in good working order. Tradition attributes his manufacture to one Juanelo Turriano, mechanician to Emperor Charles V. The story is told that the emperor's son King Philip II, praying at the bedside of a dying son of his own, promised a miracle for a miracle, if his child be spared. And when the child did indeed recover, Philip kept his bargain by having Turriano construct a miniature penitent homunculus.

The above image is from the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

  2024

 

You may also be interested in:

Darwin's Complete Galapagos Library Available Online
The Year 2000 as Envisioned in the Year 1910
Gene Roddenberry's Original Pitch for "Star Trek" (via @kottke)
Revisionist History
1,200 Year Old Telephone