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St Mark’s Bell Tower
St Mark's Square, Venice
The imposing structure of the St Mark’s Bell Tower in Venice - and especially its great height – gives the profile of Venice an unmistakable symbol of greatness: the St Mark’s Campanile in Venice overlooks the entire city and the surrounding lagoon, allowing those who climb it, particularly on clear days, to enjoy far-reaching views almost to the alpine mountains.
Built with the purpose of serving as a beacon for sailors of the lagoon, the original Piazza San Marco Bell Tower was built on Roman foundations - probably a watch tower - and completed in 1173. After various changes and transformations over the centuries, the current form of the Campanile of St. Mark's Square Venice is in line with the architecture of the 15th century, when it was renovated and designed by Giorgio Terror, under the direction of Bartolomeo Bon. The main differences can be seen in: the marble belfry, the addition of the upper structure with four faces – on which the Lion of San Marco and Venice appear - and the slender spire of bronze bearing on the tip a golden statue of the Archangel Gabriel which, placed on a turntable, acts as a wind vane. The height of St Mark’s Campanile is almost 100 m.
Each of the five bellsplaced in the loggia of St Mark's Campanile has a role: the 'Marangona' - the only surviving original - announced the beginning and end of the working days of the 'cormorant' (carpenters Arsenal) and meetings of the Great Council, the 'Nona' marks the south and the 'Trottiera' warned the nobles who were attending the meetings of the Great Council, and the 'Mezza Terza' informed the meeting of the Senate, and finally the 'Malefico' informed of an execution.
In the history of science, the Campanile in St Mark’s Square in Venice had its moment of glory in 1609 when Galileo proved right here the effectiveness of his telescope.
A special mention is deserved for the loggia of St Mark's Campanile - at the base of the tower - facing the basilica, which was built in the 16th century by Jacopo Sansovino. The marble structure of the loggia is decorated with statues and portraits of classical taste that represent allegories to celebrate the Venice Republic. The loggia was also the seat of the guard of Arsenalotti, the prestigious military-corporation of workers employed in the Arsenal of Venice, who stood guard at the meetings of the Great Council. Along with the bell tower, the work of Sansovino 'separates' St Mark’s Square from the smaller St Mark’s square.
On 14 July 1902 the St Mark’s Bell Tower Venice collapsed on the square: fortunately with no casualties or serious damage to the surrounding architectural treasures, but the tower and below the loggia were almost completely destroyed. Recovering what was left of the original fragments, the San Marco Campanile was rebuilt 'where it was and how it was' - the famous phrase given by the mayor Grimani in his speech after the incident – on 25 April 1912.
Today, the Piazza San Marco Bell Tower has a lift for up to 14 people: for those wishing to visit Venice, the majestic St Mark's Campanile admission and Sansovino loggia remain one of the attractions not-to-be-missed.
Campanile di San Marco
Venice – St Mark’s Square 30124
St Mark's Campanile opening times:
- November 9am-7pm
- From November to April 9.30am-3.45pm
- From April to June 9am-7pm
- From July to September 9am-9pm
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