St Mark's Campanile

St Mark's Campanile

St Mark's Campanile is the bell tower of St Mark's Basilica in Venice, Italy, located in the square (piazza) of the same name. It is a recognizable symbol of the city.

The tower is 98.6 meters tall, and stands alone in a corner of St Mark's Square, near the front of the basilica. It has a simple form, the bulk of which is a plain brick shaft, 12 meters on a side and 50 meters tall, above which is the arched belfry, housing five bells. The belfry is topped by a cube, alternate faces of which show walking lions and the female representation of Venice ("la Giustizia": Justice). The tower is capped by a pyramidal spire, at the top of which sits a golden weathervane in the form of the archangel Gabriel. The campanile reached its present form in 1514. As it stands today, however, the tower is a reconstruction, completed in 1912 after the collapse of 1902.


The initial construction in the ninth century, during the reign of Pietro Tribuno, built on Roman foundations, and was used as a watch tower for the dock which then occupied what is now Piazzetta dei Leoncini. Construction was finished in the twelfth century, during the reign of Domenico Morosini. The base of the campanile is part of the logetta which housed the barracks of the guard for the Doge's Palace. The logetta was built by Sansovino, completed in 1549 and extended in 1663.

Repeated restoration

Seriously damaged by a fire in 1489 that destroyed the wooden spire, the campanile assumed its definitive shape in the sixteenth century thanks to the restorations made to repair further damage caused by the earthquake of March, 1511. These works, initiated by the architect Giorgio Spavento, then executed under the direction of Bartolomeo Bon of Bergamo, added the belfry, realized in marble; the attic, on which was put the sculpture of the lion of Saint Mark and Venice; and the spire, in gold leaf. The work was completed on 6 July, 1513, with the placement of the gilded wooden statue of the Archangel Gabriel in the course of a ceremony recorded by Marin Sanudo.

In the following centuries numerous other interventions were made to repair the damage caused by fires. In 1653, Baldasarre Longhena took up the restorations. More work was done after a fire on 13 April, 1745, which caused some of the masonry to crack, and killed several people as a result of falling stonework. Finally, in 1776, the campanile was equipped with a lightning rod. In 1820, the statue of the angel was replaced with a new one by Luigi Zandomeneghi.

Collapse and rebuilding

In July of 1902, the north wall of the tower began to show signs of a dangerous crack that in the following days continued to grow. Finally, on Monday, 14 July, around 9:45am, the campanile collapsed completely, also demolishing the logetta. Remarkably no one was killed, except for the caretaker's cat. [cite episode|title=Inviting Disaster 4|episodelink=List of Modern Marvels episodes|series=Modern Marvels|serieslink = Modern Marvels|credits=Produced, written and directed by David DeVries|network=The History Channel|airdate=2003-11-04] Given the position of the campanile, the resulting damage was relatively limited. Besides the logetta, only a corner of the Biblioteca Marciana was destroyed. The "piera del bando", a large porphyry column from which laws used to be read, protected the basilica itself.

The same evening, the communal council approved over 500,000 Lire for the reconstruction of the campanile. It was decided to rebuild the tower exactly as it was, with some internal reinforcement to prevent future collapse. Work lasted until 6 March, 1912. The new campanile was inaugurated on 25 April, 1912, on the occasion of Saint Mark's feast day.


The original Campanile inspired the designs of other towers worldwide, including the clock tower at King Street Station in Seattle,cite web |last= Seattle Historical Society |authors= Margaret A. Corley |title= National Register of Historic Places Inventory -- Nomination Form |publisher= National Park Service, Department of Interior |date= March 1973 |url= |format= PDF |accessdate= 2007-08-27] , Brisbane City Hall, Australia, the MetLife Tower in New York City, the Daniels & Fisher Tower in Denver, and Sather Tower, nicknamed the Campanile, on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley. [cite web
title=Berkeley Landmarks: Sather Tower (Campanile)

Replicas of the current tower sits on the complex of The Venetian, the Venice-themed resort on the Las Vegas Strip, and its sister resort The Venetian Macao.

The Bells

Each of the five bells of the campanile had a special purpose. The "Renghiera" (or the "Maleficio") announced executions; the "Mezza Terza" proclaimed a session of the Senate; the "Nona" sounded midday; the "Trottiera" called the members of the Maggior Consiglio to council meetings and the "Maragona" rang to mark the beginning and ending of working day.


In Popular Culture

The 1902 collapse of the Campanile plays a role in American novelist Thomas Pynchon's 2006 novel "Against the Day", in which an aeronautical battle between ambiguously fictitious airships results in the spectacular fall of the structure.


External links

* [,+italy&ll=45.434012,12.338741&spn=0.003004,0.010274&t=k&hl=en Satellite image from Google Maps]

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