Campanile (7)

The profile of this tower dominates the Piazza San Marco with authority and, on being open to the public, can be climbed up to the actual belfry, situated nearly 100 metres up, providing a magnificent view of the city and the whole lagoon.

The Campanile is the result of a long series of constructions and reconstructions, which began in the 9th century, when the first construction was built with the idea of giving the city a good surveillance tower for the jetty. However, it was the 12th century when the works were really completed.

During the 16th century, as a consequence of the damage caused by an earthquake, a remodelling was undertaken under the direction of Bartolomeo Bon. This reform gave the tower an appearance very similar to its present one. In the same century a loggetta was built next to the base of the structure. This part of the construction, the work of Jacopo Sansovino, once housed the guards of the Doge’s palace.

However, the worst disaster was yet to come: on the 14th of July 1902 the foundations gave way and the spectacular Campanile collapsed like a simple house of cards. The good news is that there were no victims and that, apart from the Sansovino’s loggetta, which was completely destroyed, the collateral damage to the square was minimal. 

One year later work began to rebuild the Campanile. It was decided that the new construction would be in exactly the same place and would be identical in appearance to the original tower, including the loggetta, with the difference being that the whole piece would have a reinforced structure. The new Campanile was officially opened on  the 25th of April 1912, coinciding with Saint Mark’s Day, the patron saint of the city.

The actual belfry sits over a simple square-based tower built in red brick. It is topped with a pyramidal spire crowned by a gilded figure that represents an angel and turns like a weather vane according to the wind. In past times, you would have had to climb to the top on foot, but thanks to the advances of today’s modern life, you can go up to the top in a lift with capacity for 14 people. Once there, you can appreciate five famous bells: the Marangona, the Maleficio, the Nona, the Mezza Terza and the Trottiera. In the past each one of them had a different function, while the ringing of one marked the beginning and end of the working day, and another called the members of the senate to the Palazzo Ducale. The Maleficio, the curse, whose name does not auger at all well, was rung when an execution was due to take place.

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