St Mark’s Clocktower

An early renaissance building awaits visitors on the northern side of St Mark’s Square: it is St Mark’s Clocktower (Torre dell’ orologio).

The clock on the tower’s facade shows the time in Roman numerals. Also depicted are the signs of the zodiac in gold and the moon and its phases, surrounded by stars, made of enamel and gold. This astronomical clock was designed for Venetian sailors, who could use it to calculate the tides before embarking on a sailing expedition.

Legend has it that the creator of the clock’s system, watchmaker Emilia Giancarlo Ranieri, was blinded after its completion by the State Inquisitors, to ensure that he would never repeat a masterpiece of this caliber.

On a terrace at the top of the tower, two great bronze figures known as the “Moors” strike the hours on a bell. Directly below them, the statue of the winged lion of Venice stands imposingly with an open book next to it, in front of a blue background with gold stars. Below the statue and directly above the clock face is a semi-circular gallery with statues of the Virgin and Child.

Passing through the archway, formed by the tower’s lower two floors, you find yourself at the main street of Venice, called the Merceria. If you walk towards Rialto, you leave St Mark’s Square behind.