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The stunning Clock tower of Venice has been watching over the city for over five hundred years, marking the time with absolute precision from a corner of our beautiful Saint Mark’s Square. This is, of course, one of the most famous architectural landmarks in Venice: it overlooks the triumphal arch of the city’s neuralgic shopping street, the ancient "Merceria"connecting Saint Mark's square to Rialto.

Until 1998, the 5 floors of the tower were occupied, as well as by the clock mechanism, also by a guardian, who divided his rooms with the tolling of the Two Moors. Nowadays not anymore. Imagine to be the guardian there? :)

The Moors are two statues which dominate the Clocl tower of Venice and which  are not strictly moors after all, but were thus defined by the dark bronze patina that covers them, strike a blow, each one, every five minutes.

What does it mean for the poor guardian ? This means that the poor guardian suffered 24 hourly strokes that in a day make 264 deafening shots

At noon and midnight, the sundial also accompanies the two noisy and indefatigable moors. To make sure the passage of time is well marked, the sundial re-enacts the 132 shots made by each moor in the previous 11 hours.

Which means that the poor guardian and family listened to 528 chimes a day multiplied by 365 days, that is 192,720 strokes.

The mechanism

The mechanism of the clock tower of Venice has not remained the same since 1499, but has undergone several restorations commissioned to maintain its operation unchanged. The last one was completed in 2006. It is very interesting to look at the cogwheels, the counterweights system and the large 80 cm drums indicating the Roman numerals for the days.

Walking up the stairs, you arrive on the terrace where the Moors and the bell stand out, and from which you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the lagoon.

Venice Clock Tower offer an amazing wonderful view from the terrace, overlooking the Venetian bell towers and streets. There are more than 178, built as rudimentary headlights to send warning messages to ships in the lagoon in wartime.

Venice Clock Tower: the statues of the Magi Kings

If you are in Venice on the day of the Epiphany ( or on the day of Festa Della Sensa) you cannot miss this short but unmissable event, that every year comes to life in Piazza San Marco, observing the Clock Tower.

From midday you can admire the Three Wise Men, the Magi King, in procession in front of the Virgin Mary and the Little Jesus. At the stroke of every hour, from the panel next to the clock, comes out this procession of wooden figures, representing the Nativity, just like a giant carillon.

They come out of a side door preceded by an Angel with a trumpet, bow before Jesus and Mary and fall into the ancient Tower. The statues are not the originals ones of 1499. but a faithful copy made in the 18th century.

The building of the Clock Tower of Venice

The architect Mauro Codussi built the Clock Tower between 1496 and 1499, while the two side wings were added in the eighteenth century. 

The complex system of the clock, which marks hour, day, lunar phases and zodiac, was created by the Emilia-based watchmaker Giancarlo Ranieri starting from 1493; according to legend, when the watchmaker had finished his masterpiece, the Inquisitors of State made him blind, so that he could never again build an equal one.


Many thanks to Monica Cesarato blog for details :)


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Free Walk in Venice tours - the hidden secrets of Venice and Dorsoduro: Venice off the beaten tracks

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