Like a Gentleman!

The Campanile di San Marco, Venice
Although there are many campanili (bell-towers) in Venice, only one is known simply as Il CampanileAnd that is the towering brick edifice in the Piazza San Marco, which started off life in the 9th century as a watch tower, or lighthouse. The bell tower, which is also known locally as el paron di casa (the master of the house), only took on its present form in the 16th century. 
The figure of Justice, Campanile di San Marco, Venice
The belfry is topped by a cube whose alternate faces depict the Lion of St Mark and the personification of Justice (La Giustizia). 
The gilded statue of the Archangel Gabriel, Campanile di San Marco, Venice
The bell-tower is capped by a pyramidal spire, at the top of which is a golden weather-vane in the shape of the Archangel Gabriel. 

El paron had stood proud ande erect for almost a thousand years, but on the morning of July 14th, 1902, ominous cracks began to appear. The cracks rapidly widened and shortly before 10.00am the bell tower suddenly buckled and crashed to the ground. It had stood in the square for almost one thousand years, one of the great landmarks of the city. Suddenly it was nothing more than a large pile of rubble. It had fallen, in the words of Venetians, 'like a gentleman', destroying nothing more than Sansovino's loggetta, which sat at its base, and the corner of the Biblioteca Marciana. 

The only fatality was the care-taker's cat, Melampyge, which was named after Casanova's fox-terrier. Jan Morris writes in her book on Venice that the six shirts which the custodian's wife had just ironed were found unruffled under the debris. 

By some miracle, the Marangona, the chief bell in the tower, survived the crash. The original five bells all had different names and functions. The Marangona rang out to announce the hours of work and rest, while the smallest bell, the Maleficio, rang to announce executions. 

In the space of a single decade, the bell tower was rebuilt to its original design and height (99 meters/325 feet). It was officially re-opened on April 25th, 1912, exactly one thousand years after the foundations of the original structure had, allegedly, been laid. At the celebratory banquet six of the guests wore the shirts which the custodian's wife had ironed a decade earlier! 


Popular Posts