The campanile of Saint Mark, symbol of Venice

In the popular imagination, there are buildings that are truly symbols. The Eiffel Tower was thus almost erected as an allegory of the city of Paris. In Venice, the historical and artistic density has contributed, over the centuries, to erect various constructions and to define them as true emblems of the city. At the heart of the Serenissima, the Campanile of St. Mark is a symbol.

To quote some others, those that the general public knows best, we could evoke the Rialto Bridge, connecting the " sestieri »(Venetian districts) of San Polo and San Marco; the Bridge of Sighs, connecting the prison to the Doge's Palace, a masterpiece of Gothic-Byzantine architecture; or the Saint-Marc basilica, located on the eponymous “piazza”, where you can notably go to the “caffè Florian” since the 18th century. The tallest campanile in the city of Venice is located in Saint Mark's Square, which rises to nearly ninety-eight meters in height. This article is intended to be an analysis of the great moments in the history of the Campanile of San Marco, which have helped to establish it as a symbol of the Serenissima, until today.

The construction of a "first campanile" (9th - 19th century)

Pietro Tribuno, seventeenth doge of the Serene Republic of Venice, launched in 888 the construction of the Saint-Marc campanile. The erection of the building was completed under the dogate of Domenico Morosini in the 12th century. But the construction of this "first campanile" was not easy: indeed, in 1080, while the tower was in full construction, the ground literally gave way under its weight, and it was necessary to start again from the beginning. Silvio Domenico, then Doge of Venice, ordered the demolition of what was left of the building, and decided on its reconstruction a few fathoms away, still in St. Mark's Square.

The fire of 1489, which devastated a good part of the sestiere de San Marco, seriously damaged the bell tower. The wooden arrow that had been placed in 1178 at the tip of the building was destroyed; this helps to show the full scale of the disaster that struck the tower. This “first campanile”, inspired by that of Forli, in Emilia-Romagna, had a difficult start: in 1511, an earthquake again weakened the building, which eventually collapsed. From then on, it was decided to launch a large construction company, aimed at rebuilding a new, reinforced tower: Giorgio Spavento and Bartolomeo Bon, architects, added to the campanile a marble bell tower, on which a sculpture of the lion of Saint Mark enthroned, like a golden angel, hoisted to the point of the tower in 1513.

Over the centuries, multiple fires weakened the campanile: the April 13, 1745, a disaster caused cracks in the masonry, and caused heavy rockfalls which killed several Venetians. This "primitive bell tower" in Venice, in reality, took almost a millennium to be developed and built. The various and successive catastrophes greatly weakened the edifice, which was never truly completed.

The tragedy of 1902

The centuries and successive weakening ended up being right of the campanile of Saint-Marc. The 14 July 1902at ten o'clock in the morning, the campanile of Saint-Marc literally collapsed on itself, from the top of its ninety-eight meters. The logetta of the campanile, built by the architect Sansovino in 1549, was also destroyed. There were no casualties from this collapse, except the campanile keeper's cat. Miraculously, St. Mark's Basilica and the Doge's Palace were not affected. In fact, in the days before the bell tower collapsed, the Venetians had been alerted by cracks and cracks. A security perimeter had also been set up on the morning of the tragedy, and the square was evacuated. It is therefore easy to understand how two photographers were able to immortalize the event, as the illustration in the article proves.

« Com’era, dov’era "," As he was, where he was ". These were the words of the City Council of Venice, which decided on the very evening of the disaster to rebuild the Campanile of Saint Mark. At the beginning of the year 1903, the first stone of the construction was laid; the campanile was rebuilt with materials from the first. The whole of Europe was moved by this tragedy, and donations poured into Venice. The April 25, 1912 - ten days after the sinking of the Titanic… - the new campanile was inaugurated on the feast day of Saint Mark. In fact, this was not the first time that the Saint-Marc campanile has collapsed. Indeed, it has collapsed five times in history: in 1080, in 1388, in 1489, in 1511, and therefore in 1902.

The campanile of Saint-Marc, like its old “version”, houses five bells. The " Marangana », Ringing morning and evening, announces the beginning and the end of work; he " Maleficia Announced the death sentences; the " Nana Sounded the 9è hour ; the " Trattiera »Called on the magistrates to attend the sessions of the Doge's Palace; finally, the bell of " Pregadi », Which called on the senators to go to the ducal palace. It is therefore easier to understand the attachment that the Venetians had and have for the campanile, symbol of the city, which has always really punctuated their daily lives.

Venice, a thousand-year-old city, totally out of time, seems immortal. You just have to walk around the Serenissima at nightfall to realize this. The Venetians are very attached to their campanile, since it is truly the emblem of the city. Often destroyed, always rebuilt, the campanile of Saint-Marc is the symbol of the immortality of the Serenissima. It is not for nothing that the Venetians have always nicknamed him the " master of the house ».

For further

- Venice seen from its Campaniles by T. Sammartini. 2003.

- Venice: Art and Architecture by Marion Kaminski. 2006.

Video: Piazza San Marco, Venezia (January 2022).