“We got to Venice at one o’clock in the afternoon, and stopped at the Hotel Denielli on the water east of the Doge’s palace. It was a chilly day and the chain of mountains seen to the north of us all the way from Trieste to Venice were covered with snow. The season at Venice was late, complaining of the inclement and stormy weather which they had passed through.”
—from a letter, dated 9.May.1853, written by William Cullen Bryant to his wife Frances
Mr. Bryant could have known the time of day by looking at Torre del’Orologio; his hotel was close enough!
Torre del’Orologio on Piazza San Marco was commissioned by Doge Agostino Barbarigo in 1493. Giancarlo Rainieri, a clockmaker from Reggio Emilia was granted the commission, to make the movement. His father, Gianpaolo, was well known for having built a clock in their hometown in 1481. Also known as St. Mark’s Clock Tower, and the Moor’s Clock Tower, it faces the square near to the Basilica di San Marco. Creating mechanical astronomical clocks in the 14th and 15th centuries was all the in Europe.
The tower was designed by Maurizio Codussi, with construction beginning in 1496. The clock shows the time of day, the phase of the moon and the major Zodiac signs. Doge Agostino Barbarigo, who unveiled the clock on 1.February.1499. A statue of him was placed near the Lion of San Marco on the upper part of the Tower façade; it was destroyed in 1797 when the Venetian Republic fell to Napoleon. The master clock engineer was made its caretaker. A tradition began; the clock’s keepers and their families have lived in the tower ever since.
At the top of the tower are two bronze figures, which strike the bell hourly. Although originally called giants, their dark patina, formed over the years, has given rise to the nickname the Moors. An haute relief of the winged lion of San Marco, Patron Saint of Venice, stands with one paw on an open Bible below the Moors. The lion is the symbol of Venice. A seated figure of the Virgin Mary stands below the lion and above the massive clock face. The clock was intentionally placed high enough to protect it from aqua alta, high water, and to be visible from the quay.
During Ascension Week and on 6.January, the Feast of the Epiphany, carved figures of the three Magi and an angel trumpeter emerge from the digital display openings flanking the Virgin Mary. They process before the Virgin and Child on the hour. Guided tours, climbing the 19th-century spiral staircase inside the tower, take visitors to the rooftop Moors.
The clock and the tower have been modified and renovated many times over the years, including the 1858 addition of the world’s first digital time displays. Two internal drums move to show hours and minutes in Roman and Arabic numerals flanking the Madonna and Child. Between 1998 and 2006, in honor of the clock’s 500th anniversary, the entire structure underwent a thorough overhauling. The 1497 bell that rings today is the original cast at Venice’s shipbuilding area known as the Arsenal.
There is a story that the engineers who built the mechanism of this gold and blue clock in Piazza San Marco were rewarded by having their eyes gouged out so as to ensure that no other city could have such a marvellous clock as Venice. The clock is impressive even today (but maybe not as much as the one in Prague's Old Town square).
The clock was built between 1496 and 1506 and the design had seafareres in mind with it's phases of the moon and zodiac symbols. On the hour two bronze Moors strike the bell.
VAPORETTO - SAN ZACCARIA or SAN MARCO (VALLARESSO)
This impressive Clock tower is probably best viewed from in front of the main door of St Marks. It was built between 1496 and 1506 and has been renovated this century.
The central part of the clock tower was designed in 1499, by Mauro Codussi, and the wings, are believed to be the work of Pietro Lombardo.
The clocks workings were by Paolo and Carlo Rainieri, brothers from Reggio Emilia. It took them 3 years to complete.
Local legend stated that other cities were so jealous of this fine clock, they circulated a rumour that the citizens of Venice tore out the eyes of the brothers to prevent them ever building a similar piece. It is more likely that they were instead very well rewarded for their work! As was tradition, they were given housing in the tower, as were their descendants, which further discounts the rumour.
The clock doesn't just give an accurate time, but also shows the zodiac sign and latest lunar phase for the time. This is one of a few clocks in Venice that show a 24 hour clockface
The legend 'Horas non numero nisi serenas' is depicted, and translates as 'I only number happy hours'
At one time, ships leaving the Grand Canal used the clock to help plan their best times and route for setting sail, and in 1858, it was also declared that all clocks in the city would be set by this timepiece.
On top of the tower are 2 bronze figures of ' The Moors' or 'The Mori ', who 'sound the hours' Originally the intention was for the men to be giants, but as the bronze quickly darkened in the Venetian atmosphere, they became known as 'The Moors' . These huge bronzes were cast in 1497, in the Arsenale. They represent ' the chaos and primordial darkness that preceded The Creation of the World' Their hammers strike the large bell representing the ringing sound of The Word or Fiat Lux that the world was created!
Apparently during Epiphany and Ascension week, this vision is further enhanced by figures of the 3 kings and an Angel appearing, to pay homage to the Madonna. This happens on the hour.
Prior to the renovation work, it was possible to climb the tower, to watch The Moors striking the time, and for views over the city. I understand that tickets for an hour long guided tour are available from the Museo Correr
From the top of the Campanile you have a birds eye view of 'The Moors'. (pic 2)
Designed by the architect Mauro Codussi in 1496, la Torre dell'Orologio (St Mark's Clocktower) is his most famous work. The structure was initially designed as a tower, but soon after its construction, two side wings were added. The elaborate clock tells the time along with the zodiac signs and the phases of the moon. Above the clock is a statue of the Virgin and above it is the Lion of Saint Mark against a starlit night blue sky. The tower is crowned by a large bronze bell and two figures known as i Mori di Venezia (the Moors of Venice) who ring the bell every hour. La Torre dell'Orologio is located on Piazza San Marco, opposite il Campanile. On my first visit to Venice in Nov 05, the tower was covered in scaffolding for an extensive restoration. The work was completed in 2007.
The beautiful clock tower is another impressive building at San Marco square. It was bult at the end of the 15th century. Like elsewhere in the world (in Prague etc) the legend says that Paolo and Carlo Rainieri (brothers from Reggio that made the clocks) were blinded by the people of Venice so not to make another nice clock like those! It’s not a normal clock because you can (apart for time) see the zodiac signs and the lunar phase. The clock shows only the hour though so don’t count on it for your dates, it seems the people of Venice were less stressed that era :)
There are two big bronze figures (made in 1497) at the top, the “The Moors” who ring the bell.
I’ve been told that you could go up to the top of the clock tower but it was under renovation during our visit so we watched it from the square (pics 2-3) and we had a bird-eye view from the top of Campanile (pic 1). I don’t know the entrance fee but I guess it’s included at Museo Correr ticket.
Oh my god, it seems every tourist comes here in Venice so it is always croweded. We knew that so we came early in the morning (before 9.00am) we strolled around, when only the street sellers were putting the souvenirs stands. There were many pigeons around but not so many as in the past probably because feeding them isn’t allowed anymore. There are many cafes and restaurants and some musicians always play music for the customers. San Marco is the only square in Venice called “piazza”, all the others are called "campo"Napoleon called San Marco square “the most beautiful drawing room in Europe” and definetelly this huge trapezoidal square is nice, especially if you look down at it from the Campanile (pic 1).
Although the Campanile (bell tower) is important because you can have a wonderfull view all over Venice (check next tip) there are many other sites to visit at San Marco square: Torre dell Orologio (Clock Tower), the Columns of Saint Mark and Theodore, the Doge Palace and of course San Marco Basilica.
San Marco church (Basilica di San Marco) is an amazing big cathedral (pic 2-3). It was first built in 9th century when the body of Saint Mark was brought from Alexandria. It was rebuilt after two centuries by architects from Istanbul (Constantinople that era). You can see a mix of different architectural styles, the façade has oriental and Romanesque elements.
It is open to tourists(possible variations due to religious services):Monday-Saturday 9.45-17.00 Sunday 14.00-17.00. Before your visit, luggage & rucksacks must be left at the left luggage office indicated on the map(Ateneo San Basso) that you will see outside the church on a sign. Don’t worry, it is opposite the church. Although photography isn’t allowed inside it’s worth to wait at the line to enjoy it. There is no entrance fee but you have to pay 4 euros for the museum that houses the 4 original gilded bronze horses. They were brought during the fourth Crusade from Constantinople where they graced the hippodrome. It’s not sure if they are greek or roman though.
If you don’t have a lot of time check some nice details outside, like the replica bronze horses on the façade, or the Four Tetrarchs a nice porphyr sculpture that represents the Tetrarchs -rulers of the Roman Empire- (Diocletian, Maximian, Galerios and Constantinos). It is weird that all of them look the same but it’s because symbolizes the unity of them. Like the four horses they were came from Constantinople together with other precius items. In late 1960 they found the missing foot of one of them in Istanbul.
Probably the first thing you will notice as you come from the Grand Canl are the two Byzantine columns (pic 4) that used to be the entrance of the city when there was only sea connection. One of them has a bronze chimaira on the top, a lion with wings that represets San Marco. The other one is a marble statue that represends St Teodore upon a crocodile. Crossing between the two columns supposed to bring bad luck but there are so many tourists obsessed to see San Marco that they always forget about it! :) Anyway, at this site the public executions were taking place.
Facing Basilica San Marco to its left you can see Piazzetta Dei Leoncini, a small square that is named after the two porhyr lions (pic 5) that marks this small square. Doge Alvise Mocenigo gave them as a gift to the city in 1722. At this square is the Palazzo Patriarcale that housed the Venetian patriarchs.
We didn’t return to San Marco until later in the night to see it everything litted and it was beautiful. The weird and funny thing was that it was also full of water! :)
Once regarded by Napoleon as "Europe's finest drawing room," Piazza San Marco is the focal point of social, political and religious life in old Venice, and in today's Venice, a gathering place for thousands of tourists competing for scarce real estate with hundreds of pigeons. It's a great vantage point to admire the Basilica di San Marco, Palazzo Ducale, the Campanile and lesser attractions such as Torre dell'Orologio, Procuratie Nuove and Procuratie Vecchie. The square also serves as the dividing space, albeit a huge one, between two competing "ancient cafés" - Florian and Quadri - whose competition extends beyond the expensive cappuccino to classical music and sometimes a mini-orchestra. If sipping pricey cappuccino is not your cup of tea (pun not intended), enjoy the free music and the lively atmosphere of Piazza San Marco.
The clock tower, a part of the Museo Correr, founded by Count Teodoro Correr, was built at the end of the 15th century.
On top of the tower are two (once dark brown, today already rather with a green shade) bronze statue, known as "Moors", by whom the bell is tolled quarter-hourly.
The main dial of the large Astronomical Clock has one hand only, for the hours, but shows the phases of the moon and sun as well as the signs of the zodiac. This is typical of early clocks: knowing the approximate time of day was enough precision for those less tightly scheduled times. The clock was the official timekeeper in the past centuries, and all other clocks of Venice were adjusted to it.
The facade of the tower with its symbols shows the powers that govern Venice, namely the scientific progress, civic authority and Christian faith.
Note that the clock is one of the worl'd first digital timepieces. As I recall, it was also accurate, and the time really was 1:40 in the afternoon.
Entrance fee 14 € incl. all facilities of the Museo Correr.
Open for guided tours only: Mon-Wed 9am, 10am, 11am; Thu-Sun 1pm, 2pm, 3pm.
English tours Mon-Wed 10am, 11am; Thu-Sun 1pm, 2pm, 3pm
The other tower in the Piazza, the Torre dell’Orologio (Clock Tower), was built between 1496 and 1506.
Legend relates that the makers of the clock slaved away for three years at their project, only to have their eyes put out so that they couldn’t repeat their engineering marvel for other patrons.
In fact the pair received a generous pension – presumably too dull an outcome for the city’s folklorists.
The tower’s roof terrace supports two bronze wild men known as “The Moors”, because of their dark patina. A protracted restoration of the Torre dell’Orologio is drawing to a close; when it’s over, it will be possible to climb up through the innards of the tower, to the terrace from which the Moors strike the hour.
Called Piazza SAn Marco, it is really a trapezoid shape. It was laid out in 11th century, and after filling in a canal in the 12th, it became an elongated square. This is the most decorated mosaic structure of all time. Besides the famed St. Mark's Basilica and its gold colored tiles(there are a total of 8,000 square meters of mosiac tiles), there is the adjacent Doge's Palace. At the other end of the square is a large building constructed under Napoleon times to hold a ballroom. It is now the Correr Museo, which is a great place to visit, as well as the Archelogical Museo The buildings on either side are the old and new Procurator offices that controlled much of Venice activity. The Campinile is the 325 feet tower related to St. Mark's, and it collapsed in 1902 and rebuilt. The Torre del'Orologio opposite side has been going since 1499. Surrounding the whole area is loggia that holds many shops and restaurants. The archway by the clock is called Mercerie. The entry fee to clock tower is 12 Euro, and seems very pricey
Known as the Torre dell'Orologio or the Moors' Clocktower, St Mark's Clocktower is a large clock tower situated on the north side St Mark's Square, adjoining the Procuratie Vecchie. It houses the most important clock in the city, St Mark's Clock
It was constructed as a display of Venice's wealth, and as an aid to sailors on the Grand Canal about to depart on a voyage. The building was designed by Mauro Codussi and constructed between 1496 and 1499. The largest bay incorporates a two-storey gateway, with the large clock face above, topped by a single storey tower with a depiction of a Lion of St Mark against the night sky, while two blackened bronze figures intended as giants but known as the "Moors" stand on top and ring a bell on the hour.
The tower was built by Codussi between 1496 and 1499 and for a decade or so the clock tower stood alone, then four supporting bays were added (two to each side of the larger central tower). In 1755, architect Giorgio Massari brought the side wings over the terraces and added balustrades, while eight columns were added at ground level
The clock (alternatively known as St Mark's Clock Tower or the Moors' Clock Tower) displays the time of day, the dominant sign of Zodiac and the current phase of the moon.
So reliable is the clock, that in 1858 it was made the official timekeeper of Venice - to which every other clock should be set.
Guided tours in English: at 09.00, 10.00 and 11.00 AM on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and at 13.00, 14.00 and 15.00 PM on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
San Marco piazza is heart of Venice. There you can see the main things in the Venice and some of them are:
- San Marco basilica
- Torre dell Orologio (Clock Tower)
- Campanile (Bell Tower)
- The Columns (Saint Mark and Theodore)
- Venice Doge Palace
- Feeding pigeons.........
Where ever you go, you will finally finish on the square San Marco.
This is 1 of the most photographed monuments in Venice.
It’s devided into several parts.
The 1st thing you’ll notice is definitely the clock. It’s a real masterpiece, indicating the passing of the seasons, the phases of the moon and the movement of the sun from 1 sign of the zodiac to the other. The clock is original.
Up on the small terrace, there’s a gilt copper statue of the Madonna and Child. During Ascension week three statues move across the terrace from left to right.
Then, there’s the Lion of San Marco, and at the top, you can see the two bronze Moors who strike the hours.
The Clock Tower was built between 1496 and 1499.
This tower and clock lead through to the Merceria, the main path leading into the Piazza. Begun in 1496, the architecture of the tower and mechanics of the clock are both amazing examples of art and craftsmanship of the time.
The clock, besides displaying the time, also shows the phases of the sun and moon and the movement of the sun through the signs of the zodiac.
The bell at the top is struck every hour by 2 bronze moors, cast in 1497. If you’re here on January 6th, you should see the 3 Kings appear from the doors on the side.