When arriving in Piazza San Marco, nowadays, the first time visitor is so busy to take it all in, that most details of the Piazza may get overlooked. Besides, I truly think that Venice must be visited many times over. Each time it will be different. There will be always something new to see and to visit.
Arriving by sea, like it was supposed to be in ancient times (but now no longer permitted not even if arriving on a big cruise ship). Only by private taxi one can still get to see the Piazza from the sea, therefore one of the first things that will appear will be the clock tower, with its blues and gold, it is a real eye catcher.
The Clock Tower
The remarkable “Torre dei Mori” (Moors Tower), is one of the most famous architectural signs of Venice: it overlooks the access to the city’s busy commercial center, the ancient Merceria, the calle that in pre-COVID days was so filled with tourists that it was almost impossible to walk.
The Tower is a connection between the different architectural buildings of Piazza San Marco, the Basilica and the Procuratie: the seats of the political and the religious power, and it faces the sea, the official entrance to the city.
The tower is a masterpiece of technique and engineering, an indispensable element for Venice image and power. It marked its life, history, and the passage of time for exactly five hundred years.
The decision to build a new public clock dates back, in fact, to a resolution of the Senate in 1493. This building stood as an element of strong novelty and radical break with the overall layout of the square.
The clock face is in gold and blue enamel; it marks the time, the day, the moon phase and even the zodiac.
The clock is also equipped with a carillon mechanism, traditionally activated only on the day of the Epiphany. At every stroke of the hour, the side panel of the hours opens to let a carousel of wooden statues pass, representing the characters of the Nativity and the Tree Wise Men. The statues, dragged by a rail mechanism along the semicircular platform above the dial, then re-enter the Tower through the side panel of the minutes located on the opposite side of the clock.
Starting from sunset at 18:00 (6 p.m.), the day was divided into 24 hours and then the quadrants were graduated from 1 to 24.
In the center, the lunar sector, in its rotation motion, drags the bipartite globe (blue / gold) around the Earth;
At every hour the ringer of the Moors is activated whose tolls are obtained by the percussion of the clubs on the bell by falling of rotation of the Moor’s bust.
Well, they are not “moors,” rather shepherds instead. They are so nicknamed for their brown color by the Venetians. Placed at the top of the Tower on a terrace, the two bronze statues beat the hours on a large bell with a hammer. They are very similar but not the same, and the visible difference consists in the detail of the beard, one of which is devoid of.
The bearded Moor is called the “old,” the other the “young.” A very specific detail contributes to this attribution of roles. The Moors mark the hours by striking the bell with their hammers (as many tolls as there are hours), but with a precise modality. The Moro Vecchio (old moor) strikes the hour two minutes before the exact time, to represent the time that has passed, while the Moro Giovane (young moor) strikes the hour two minutes later to represent the time to come.
A first restoration was carried out in 1757. The modern restoration, which began in 1997, was completed in May 2006 and inaugurated at midnight on May 27th.