Monkbot, an automaton from the 16th century

 Media Photologue Photos Cache Monkbot  Long Image
This is the "monkbot," an exquisite 16th century automaton who now resides at the Smithsonian Institution. Photo by the talented Rosamond Purcell. Watch the Monkbot move in the video below.

From the Blackbird journal:

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.
"Clockwork Prayer: A Sixteenth-Century Mechanical Monk" (Blackbird)

"A Clockwork Miracle" (Radiolab, thanks Jennifer Lum!)


  1. Why is there no “Report” option? That’s the second time I’ve seen “her” spam post today.

  2. Lovely. Interesting how you wind it up by turning the key counterclockwise.

    And EskimoGirl – welcome to the Boing Boing Bozofilter. You are banned for life.

  3. I’d like to present the Smithsonian with a toy lion, circa 2011, that I bought for my son. Pushing a button causes this ingenious device to emit a distorted noise suggesting a lion’s roar. Or, at least, it did, until it expired, after about 2 hours of normal use.

  4. I think a sixteenth century person would have been so entranced by this he would believe it was an angel and willing to do whatever he was told.

Comments are closed.