The Venice skyline has in the 100 metres St Mark’s Campanile (Campanile di San Marco in Italian) a highly recognizable symbol of its own grandeur: the tower rises solitarily over San Marco square dominating the city and its lagoon and offering its visitors, on particularly clear days, sweeping views up to the alpine ranges. Originally built on the seemingly Roman foundations of a watch tower and completed in 1173 to serve as a lighthouse for sailors crossing the Venice lagoon, it has taken over the centuries different shapes and uses. Today, it resembles what it looked like in the 16th century, when it was restored under the guidance of Bartolomeo Bon on the design of Giorgio Spavento with a number of new elements added in the years to come. These are: a marble bell chamber, a topping four-sided structure, with emblems representing the San Marco Lion and the city of Venice, and the soaring bronze spire, aptly built to make it visible from the sea bearing on its tip the gold statue of the Archangel Gabriel, positioned on a turning pedestal and used as a weather vane.
Each of the five bells was built with a specific and fascinating purpose and has been purposely named: the Marangona, today the only originally preserved bell, used to mark the beginning and ending of the working day of “marangoni”, those working in the Venice shipyard, the Arsenale, and also of the meetings of the Major Council; the Nona sounded midday; the Trottiera called the nobles of the Maggior Consiglio to council meetings; the Mezza Terza proclaimed the sessions of the Senate; finally The Maleficio announced executions.
The bell tower made a remarkable contribution to the development of science in 1609 when Galileo Galilei famously demonstrated his telescope from the Campanile.
A separate mention is rightly deserved by the loggetta facing the St Mark’s Basilica at the base of the Campanile, built by Jacopo Sansovino in the 17th century. This marble structure is adorned with statues and images of classic taste that represent allegories to celebrate the Serenissima Republic. The loggetta has also housed in the past the barracks of the Arsenalotti, the guard for the Doge's Palace. The Sansovino’s masterpiece together with the tower itself acts as an impromptu separation or screen between St Mark’s Square and the San Marco side square. Unfortunately Venice had to come to terms with the collapse of its principal bell tower on 14 July 1902. Luckily, no fatalities were reported and the resulting damage was relatively limited. The campanile collapsed completely also demolishing the loggetta. The monument was rebuilt using as much debris as possible from the collapse and once again on April 25, 1912 the tower stood “where it was and as it was”, these being the words used in his speech by the major Grimani after the collapse. The St Marks Campanile together with the loggetta cannot be missed by those visiting Venice.
St. Mark's Bell Tower
Venice - St. Mark's Square 30124
Opening Time 9.45 - 16.45