Giotto's Bell Tower
The freestanding Giotto’s bell tower, also called Torre Campanaria di Santa Maria del Fiore, is located in Piazza del Duomo – Firenze. The monument, which attains a height of 84.7 meters and more than 15 meters in width, can be considered the most eloquent witness of 14th-century Gothic architecture in Florence.
The Campanile enjoys an unusual position: it is aligned indeed with the dome’s façade, as sign of its great symbolic and religious importance. Giotto started the works in 1334 and, when he died, Andrea Pisano and, at the end (1359), Francesco Talenti took his place. The bell-tower ends with a pyramidal cusp and displays a rich sculptural decoration, with 56 relieves and 16 life-sized statues into the niches, made by 14th and 15th-century Florentine masters, like Andrea Pisano, Donatello and Luca Della Robbia.
The lower register of the main façade, facing the baptistery, shows the “Creazione dell'uomo e della donna” (the creation of man and woman), the first human work and the biblical founders of several creative human activities (sheep farming, music, metallurgy and viticulture). The upper register exhibits the seven planets, the theological and cardinal virtues, the Trivium (grammar, rhetoric and logic) and Quadrivium (geometry, arithmetic, music and astronomy) Liberal Arts, and the seven sacraments.
Astrology, housing, medicine, weaving and other activities are illustrated on the other façades. The statues into the niches represent patriarchs, prophets, king of Israel and pagan sibyls. The original pieces are preserved into the Museo dell’Opera.
The Giottesque technique is visible in the white (coming from Campiglia and Pietrasanta), green (from Prato) and red (from Monsummano and Siena) marbles, and most of all, into the majestic figurative cycle that adorns the bell-tower’s basement: Giotto did take part for sure at the impressive iconography on the relieves. Giotto stayed as “yard foreman” until his death in 1337, then Andrea Pisano (as mentioned above) continued the works from 1337 to 1348. Taddeo Gaddi (unofficial co-operator of Pisano) supervised the works to thicken the internal walls, and changed the external plan by adding two pilasters to the front edge of each façade and earning precious centimetres of wall thickness from inside. Thanks to these changes, the bell-tower could attain 87 meters with no problems at all.
However, Pisano made some mistakes while directing the works that cost him the job as yard foreman. Above all, he sacrificed the windows, so that the hall on the first floor got much darker as regards to the project.
Francesco Talenti, finished the Campanile in 1359 but, unlike his predecessors, he did not have to sort out complex statics problems. Anyway, Talenti built the lowest three floors with the characteristic motif of coupled double lancet windows, the belfry open by triple lancet windows with gable, above which, it was made a rich balustrade.
Curiosities about the bells...
The main bell (Campana Maggiore) is called St Reparata and dates back to 1475. It was thrown down from the bell tower and carted off for re-melting, by Antonio Petri in 1705, because of a break. Then is the so-called Campana della Misericordia, re-melted in September 1830 by Carlo Moreni. The Campana l’Apostolica was melted in 1516 by Lodovico di Guglielmo. The artist that made the Campana Beona is unknown, as well as the date of production. The bell called “di Terza”, has got the name of “Maria Anna”. The small Campana was melted in 1513 and the smallest one in 1514. Every bell is decorated with bas-relieves representing episodes of Mary's life and Marian privileges, made by famous sculptors that, once re-melted, quoted their own names, coat of arms, the emblem of Opera di St Maria del Fiore and Comune di Firenze and name of the Card.
You can reach the bell-tower’s roof, but beware that it is quite hard. We strongly recommend to be in good health to do it all, otherwise you can still stop in one of the intermediate terraces.
Timetable and ticket
Sundays and holidays : 8.30 am - 7.30 pm. Working days: 8.30 am - 7.30 pm. Closed: Christmas, New Year’s day, Easter, September 8th.
The ticket costs around 6.00 EUR.
Address in Florence:
Piazza del Duomo.
Ph. +39 055 230 2885.
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