Saint Mark’s campanile is one of the most recognizable buildings in Venice. A true work of art and architecture, it is located nearby Saint Mark’s basilica. The tower stands on the homonymous square and can hardly be missed. The first tower erected on this spot dates back to the 9th century, to the period of Pietro Trubino’s rule. Initially it served as a military watchtower but once it was expanded and refined its new bronze-sheathed roof caught the sun’s rays and acted as a daytime beacon for mariners. While it served as a beacon the tower witnessed the arrival of many historical figures. This was the place where in 160 Galileo Galilei demonstrated his famous telescope to the doge. Goethe is also one of those who have climbed up to the arched windows of the bell tower in order to admire the Adriatic from there. According to some historic sources Fridrich III, the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, reached the very top on his horse. During the 15th century wooden crates were lowered from the tower. Inside these wooden crates were put those clerks who were found guilty of immoral behavior.
At the base of the tower is the loggia of Sansovinio. This is a small building designed by Jacopo Sansovino and built between 1537 and 1549. It is distinguished by it three arches. Between the pillars of these arches there are bronze statues of Minerva, Mercury, Apollo and Peace. Above them three marble reliefs are put. They represent the island of Candia, Venice as justice and Cyprus. The loggia did not have any formal functions. It was a place for casual meetings of the patricians. In spite of this however, the exterior and the place where it was built, turned this loggia into an important symbol of the state.
Description: St Mark’s Campanile /picture so: Shutterstock.com/;
Over the years, the campanile suffered some serious damages and acquired its present look in 1513 when it was restored after a powerful earthquake. The tower is almost 100 meters high. Its construction is simple quite different from the elaborate Byzantine structure of the basilica. Most of it is brickwork in the form of a square with 12 width and 50 meters height of each side. Above there is the belfry, made of marble by Bartolomeo Bonn. The belfry is topped be another brick section which is decorated by winged lions – symbol of the city and the goddess of justice, a representation of Venice. Its top is a pyramidal spire which supports a gilded wooden weathervane in the shape of the archangel Gabriel. The statue of the archangel Gabriel is 3 meters tall and has wings which rotate according to the breeze. The Venetians believe that when the statues points towards the Saint Mark’s basilica, there is going to be a high water in town.
Description: the view from St Mark’s Campanile /picture source: Shutterstock.com/;
The tower we see today is actually built in the 20th century. One morning in July 1902 the Venetians woke up without their tower. The same evening the local government took a decision to rebuild it in a form as close as possible to the original one. The construction works took a decade and ended on 25th of April 1912. The bell tower has 5 bells, each one of which served a specific purpose – Nona, Marangona, Maleficio, Trottiera and Pregadi.. One was marking the beginning and the end of the working day; a second one marked lunch time; a third and forth called the judges and magistrates to session; and a fifth announced the upcoming executions. From all five bells only one is preserved – Marangona. The other were destroyed during the collapse.
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