The word horologia (from the Greek ὥρα, hour, and λέγειν, to tell) was used to describe early mechanical clocks,[15] but the use of this word (still used in several Romance languages) [16] for all timekeepers conceals the true nature of the mechanisms. For example, there is a record that in 1176 Sens Cathedral installed a ‘horologe’[17] but the mechanism used is unknown. According to Jocelin of Brakelond, in 1198 during a fire at the abbey of St Edmundsbury (now Bury St Edmunds), the monks 'ran to the clock' to fetch water, indicating that their water clock had a reservoir large enough to help extinguish the occasional fire.[18] The word clock (from the Celtic words clocca and clogan, both meaning "bell"), which gradually supersedes "horologe", suggests that it was the sound of bells which also characterized the prototype mechanical clocks that appeared during the 13th century in Europe.

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Islamic civilization is credited with further advancing the accuracy of clocks with elaborate engineering. In 797 (or possibly 801), the Abbasid caliph of Baghdad, Harun al-Rashid, presented Charlemagne with an Asian Elephant named Abul-Abbas together with a "particularly elaborate example" of a water[12] clock. Pope Sylvester II introduced clocks to northern and western Europe around 1000AD[13]

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