Venice's Clock Tower is a beloved landmark in St Mark's Square. Occupying a prominent position on the north side of the piazza, this timepiece is one of the world's most recognizable (after Big Ben, of course!). The clock tower is not to be confused with the tall, slender bell tower. This one is flanked by matching buildings and is built over an archway that leads out of the piazza towards Rialto Bridge.
The Republic of Venice commissioned the clock in 1493, bringing in Gian Carlo Ranieri, an engineer from Reggio Emilia, to plan and construct the complicated contraption. Buildings were razed to make room and in 1497 the bell, which was cast in Venice, was set in place on top, along with the sculptures affectionately called The Moors, who ring out the hours. Since then, it has been the primary clock and official timepiece of Venice, to which all other clocks are set. It is astoundingly precise.
The beautiful structure has incredible detail: The clock dial is surrounded by the astronomical calendar and a sundial. The solar and lunar phases are illustrated and the time is based on the variable length of days according to the summer or winter hours. It is intricate and complicated, and yet accurate. A semicircular balcony has a bronze sculpture of the Madonna with Child, flanked by two blue plates; the one of the left bears the hours in Roman numerals while the one on the right has the minutes (at five-minute intervals). Twice a year these panels open and an elaborate carving of the three magi emerge led by an announcing angel heralding the holy days of Epiphany and the Ascension. Above that is a carving of the Lion of St. Mark, the symbol of Venice.
To visit the clock tower, you'll need to buy tickets online in advance, but it's worth it to see the mechanisms and the details of this magnificent monument.
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Address in Venice:
Piazza San Marco.