I Only Count Happy Hours…

Clock Tower in St. Mark’s Square

The clock tower in St. Mark’s Square is a fascinating and beautiful piece of Renaissance architecture, and impressive to me for its grandeur as well as its antiquity.  Facing the waters of St. Mark’s Basin, the richly enameled clock face is yet another symbol of the wealth and prestige that was Venice at the zenith of her glory days.  Completed in 1499, the clock tower was originally freestanding.  Four lateral bays were added in the early sixteenth century; the upper stories and balustrades more than a century later.  The arched opening below the clock is the entrance to the Merceria—Venice’s primary thoroughfare—which runs from St. Mark’s Square to the Rialto Bridge, connecting the city’s religious center to its commercial district.

A pair of colossal bronze figures standing atop the tower are known as “Moors” because of their dark color.  The bell situated between the two is original and was cast at the Arsenal in 1497.  The Moors strike the hours on the bell.  The inscription on the tower reads “Horas non numero nisi serenas”—“I only count happy hours.”  One level below the Moors and their bell is the winged lion of Venice with an open book.  Below that is a semi-circular gallery with copper statues of the Virgin Mary and Jesus positioned between two large, blue panels showing the time—the hour on the left in Roman numerals, and the minutes (at five-minute intervals) on the right in Arabic numerals.  The clock’s enameled face of blue and gold is fixed within a marble circle that is etched with Roman numerals for the twenty-four hours of the day.  A golden hand with an image of the sun travels around the circle, indicating the hours of the day.  I am amazed at the intricate workings of this centuries-old timepiece!  Not only does it reflect the date and the hour, but also the position of the sun within the zodiac and the phases of the moon.

It is possible to tour the clock tower, but reservations must be made in advance.  The stairway is narrow and steep but anyone willing to brave it can climb to the rooftop terrace, passing the clock’s mechanism on the way up.  Alas, our too-tight schedule did not allow time for a tour, so that is another thing I have added to my mental bucket list.  I need to live to be a hundred…

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