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Torre dell'Orologio

Torre dell'Orologio. Torre dell'Orologio.

The St Mark's Clock tower is an early renaissance building on the north side of the Piazza San Marco at the entrance to the Merceria. It comprises a tower, which contains the clock, and lower buildings on each side. Both the tower and the clock date from the 15th century, though the mechanism of the clock has been altered.

It was placed where the clock would be visible from the waters of the lagoon and give notice to everyone of the wealth and glory of Venice. The lower two floors of the tower make a monumental archway into the main street of the city, the Merceria, which linked the political and religious centre (the Piazza) with the commercial and financial centre (the Rialto).

On a terrace at the top of the tower are two great bronze figures, hinged at the waist, which strike the hours on a bell. One is old and the other young, to show the passing of time and, although said to represent shepherds (they are wearing sheepskins) or giants (they are huge figures of great mass, necessary so that their form can be recognized at a distance) they are always known as "the Moors" because of the dark patina acquired by the bronze. The bell is also original and is signed by one Simeone who cast it at the Arsenal in 1497.

Below this level is the winged lion of Venice with the open book, before a blue background with gold stars. There was originally a statue of the Doge Agostino Barbarigo (Doge 1486-1501) kneeling before the lion, but in 1797, after the city had surrendered to Napoleon, this was removed by the French, who were purging the city of all symbols of the old regime.

Below again, is a semi-circular gallery with statues of the Virgin and Child seated, in gilt beaten copper. On either side are two large blue panels showing the time: the hour on the left in Roman numerals and the minutes (at 5 minute intervals) on the right in Arabic numerals. Twice a year, at Epiphany (6 January) and on Ascension Day (the Thursday 40 days after Easter, counting both days) the three Magi, led by an angel with a trumpet, emerge from one of the doorways normally taken up by these numbers and pass in procession round the gallery, bowing to the Virgin and child, before disappearing through the other door.

Below this is the great clock face in blue and gold inside a fixed circle of marble engraved with the 24 hours of the day in Roman numerals. A golden pointer with an image of the sun moves round this circle and indicates the hour of the day. Within the marble circle beneath the sun pointer are the signs of the zodiac in gold (these are original and date from the 1490s), which revolve slightly more slowly than the pointer to show the position of the sun in the zodiac. In the middle of the clockface is the earth (in the centre) and the moon, which revolves to show its phases, surrounded by stars which are fixed in position. The background is of blue enamel. The smaller blue circles in the four corners are not now used.

Below the clock is the archway, two storeys high, through which the street known as the Merceria leaves the Piazza on its way to the Rialto (This section of the Merceria is known as the Merceria dell'Orologio (of the clock)).

The buildings on each side have been let off separately as shops and apartments since the early 18th century.

On the other side of the tower there is another great clock face above the arch, visible to people walking down the street towards the Piazza. This is a simpler affair, again surrounded by a marble circle marked with the 24 hours, but in two series of 12 hours each. The sun pointer, marking the hours, is the only moving part on this side.

Visits to the Clock Tower

Stairways (steep and narrow) inside the building give access to the terrace on the roof, passing the clock mechanism on the way. Tours (in Italian, English and French) must be booked in advance in Museo Correr.

Clocktower - Guided tours

This extraordinary tour of the Renaissance Tower enables visitors to get a close view of the clock mechanism; it ends on terraces which afford a magnificent view of St. Mark's Square and the whole city. The tours, with an expert guide, have to be booked in advance.

Each tour is for a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 12 people. They take place every day (except 25 December and 1 January) according to a fixed schedule.

In the five floors of the Tower, visitors are accompanied by an expert guide. A first small flight of stone steps leads up to a little room in which the history of the Tower is explained. From here one can see the interesting network of pulleys, weights and counterweights as they silently rise and fall at regular intervals.

A metal spiral staircase then takes one towards the complex workings of the clock proper; visitors get a close view of the mechanism and of the gears linking it with the south and north clock faces, overlooking St. Mark's Square and the Mercerie respectively.

A further staircase then leads up to the next floor, where one can see the wooden statues of the Magi and the Angel as well as the two ornate doors from which these statues emerge in procession twice a year (on the feasts of the Epiphany and the Ascension). Here visitors can also see inside the mechanism of the clock barrels which indicate the hours and the minutes.

Going even higher in the Tower one comes to a room which holds components from the fifteenth-century clock mechanism. From here one can go out onto the two side terraces and, via a steep spiral staircase, up to the Two Moors Terrace, where one not only gets a close glimpse of the two colossal statues but also a splendid view of Venice and its lagoon.

Map of Torre dell'Orologio

Additional Info

  • Address: Clock Tower
    Piazza San Marco,
    30124 Venezia
  • Vaporetto: San Zaccaria stop - Line #1, line 4.1, line 5.1 and line 5.2
    Vallaresso stop - Line #1
    Giardinetti stop - Line #2
  • Opening Hours: VISITA IN ITALIANO
    Tutti i giorni alle ore 12 e 16

    Monday to Wednesday: 10 am and 11 am
    Thursday to Sunday: 2 pm and 3 pm

    Lundi, mardi et mercredi: 14h et 15h
    Jeudi, vendredi, samedi et dimanche: 10h et 11h

    Closed on December 25th, January 1st and May 1st
  • Tickets: Visits only upon prior booking, with specialized guide. The ticket includes the booking fee and expert guide. Children under 6 are not allowed. Tickets at Museo Correr.

    Full price Ticket: 12,00 euros

    Reduced price Ticket: 7,00 euros (Children aged from 6 to 14; students aged from 15 to 25; citizens over 65.
More in this category: « Museo Correr Ca' Rezzonico »

1 comment

  • Steve
    Steve Wednesday, 01 January 2014 15:47 Comment Link

    Booked the clock tower tour, a great panoramic views of St. Mark’s Square. it`s a 14th century clock which displays the hours of the day, the phases of the moon and the movement of the Sun through the signs of the Zodiac. When you get at the top you will see the most amazing view of Venice and his lagoon.

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