Hidden treasures

The bells of St. Mark’s Bell Tower in Venice

Historical Curiosities

The bells of St. Mark’s Bell Tower in Venice

St Mark’s Bell Tower in St. Mark's Square is one of the symbols of Venice, but not everyone knows that the original building collapsed in 1902 and was rebuilt in 10 years.

The construction of the original bell tower dates back to the ninth century, its purpose that of being a watchtower and lighthouse, to then continue to guard the square throughout the history of the Republic of Venice. Symbolically, modern astronomy began right here: in 1609, from the top of the bell tower, Galileo Galilei admired the satellites of Jupiter for the first time with his telescope and proved that the Copernican theory was correct.

Do not forget that one of the main functions of the tower is linked to its 5 bells...

  • The Marangona or Carpentiera, also called Campanon (major): it rang to mark the beginning and end of the working day of the marangoni - the carpenters of the Arsenal - and the meetings of the Great Council;
  • the Nona or Mezzana: it sounded, and still does, midday and once marked the end of the round to send letters to Rialto.
  • Trottiera or Quarantìa: it gave the second signal to the nobles who were to attend the Great Council meetings, calling them to mount their horses (before horse riding was prohibited in the city);
  • Pregadi, Pregadio or Mezza Terza: it announced the meetings of the Senate, whose members were called Pregadi;
  • Renghiera or Maleficio: it is the youngest of the bells and informed of an execution on behalf of a magistrate.

In 1820 the founder Domenico Canciani Dalla Venezia fused a new bell with the remains of the old bells (including the largest, weighing over 40 tons); during the collapse in 1902, of this assemblage, still consisting of five bells, only the largest survived, heir of the famous Marangona. The damaged bells, following the campanile collapse, were instead re-melted and, obtaining the casts from fragments of old bells, they were purposely recreated, using the same material.

St Mark’s Campanile is open to the public and can be visited all year round, with hours varying according to the period. Tickets can be purchased only on site at the time of the visit. And do not forget that in addition to the bell tower, St Mark’s square is home to the most famous buildings in Venice: the Doge's Palace and St Mark’s Basilica!

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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