Mechanical musical clock strikes 700 years

The Sounds of Time website (ACU)

Belltowers around Australia will sound with the ancient hymn Conditor alme siderum on November 28 to commemorate the 700th anniversary of the installation of the world’s first mechanical musical clock. Source: ACU.

The clock, installed in St Catherine’s Benedictine monastery in Rouen, France, in 1321, used a set of wheels with pins to make tuned bells play the hymn, which translates as “Dear God, Creator of the Stars”.

The St Catherine’s clock was among the first of a generation of musical clocks and related mechanical devices which changed daily life, the economy, and our sense of community through changing how we hear music and how we notice time.

Matthew Champion, chief investigator of The Sounds of Time, an Australian Research Council-funded project at Australian Catholic University, is facilitating the anniversary celebrations. Dr Champion said the first mechanical musical clock was an important landmark in how we understand time and how music affects our work and community.

“This is all about how people live with time. It’s the period where we developed the idea of the day divided into 24 equal hours. During this period, mechanical clocks were used to regulate work in burgeoning industries – especially the cloth trade – at a time crucial to the development of what we now recognise as industrialisation.

“Being able to reproduce music also enabled towns to develop personalities around music … A town could choose a hymn for the town clock that represented the town, much as we would have a personalised ring tone.”

Both church and civic belltowers in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, and several regional towns and cities will participate in the anniversary bellringing and the event will involve significant skill from manual bellringers who won’t have a tuned musical clock at their disposal.

Details: The Sounds of Time website.


Ringing the bells for 700 years of recorded music (ACU)


The 700-year history of the musical alarm clock (ABC News

The Online Mass


From Parish of Our Lady of The Way, North Sydney & Lavender Bay. The first Mass of the day on YouTube.
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