Saturday, January 19, 2008

St Mark's Campanile
St Mark's Campanile is the bell tower of St Mark's Basilica in Venice, located in the square (piazza) of the same name. It is a recognizable symbol of the city.
The tower is 98.6 meters tall, and stands alone in a corner of St Mark's Square, near the front of the basilica. It has a simple form, the bulk of which is a plain brick shaft, 12 meters on a side and 50 meters tall, above which is the arched belfry, housing five bells. The belfry is topped by a cube, alternate faces of which show walking lions and the female representation of Venice (la Giustizia: Justice). The tower is capped by a pyramidal spire, at the top of which sits a golden weathervane in the form of the archangel Gabriel. The campanile reached its present form in 1514. As it stands today, however, the tower is a reconstruction, completed in 1912 after the collapse of 1902.

Seriously damaged by a fire in 1489 that distroyed the wooden spire, the campanile assumed its definitive shape in the sixteenth century thanks to the restorations made to repair further damage caused by the earthquake of March, 1511. These works, initiated by the architect Giorgio Spavento, then executed under the direction of Bartolomeo Bon of Bergamo, added the belfry, realized in marble; the attic, on which was put the sculpture of the lion of Saint Mark and Venice; and the spire, in gold leaf. The work was completed on 6 July 1513, with the placement of the gilded wooden statue of the Archangel Gabriel in the course of a ceremony recorded by Marin Sanudo.
In the following centuries numerous other interventions were made to repair the damage caused by fires. In 1653, Baldasarre Longhena took up the restorations. More work was done after a fire on 13 April 1745, which caused some of the masonry to crack, and killed several people as a result of falling stonework. Finally, in 1776, the campanile was equipped with a lightning rod. In 1820, the statue of the angel was replaced with a new one by Luigi Zandomeneghi.

The 1902 collapse of the Campanile plays a role in American novelist Thomas Pynchon's 2006 novel Against the Day, in which an aeronautical battle between ambiguously fictitious airships results in the spectacular fall of the structure.