CODUSSI, Mauro
(b. ca. 1441, Bergamo, d. 1504, Venezia)

Torre dell'Orologio (basic structure)

1496-99
Photo
Piazza San Marco, Venice

At the close of the fifteenth century Codussi was busy on an important public commission, the Torre dell'Orologio (clock tower), which stands at the entrance to a long commercial street that leads off from San Marco and twists its way down to the merchant area of Rialto. Rather than build a simple bell tower, Codussi opted to use the idea of a triumphal arch: this one would have a single supporting arch topped by a square panel containing a clock face and a moving dial with the signs of the zodiac. The two upper orders are smaller in size but still on square bases. The first of these contains an aedicula with the Virgin, the other the lion of St Mark with Doge Barbarigo (destroyed). The attic is crowned by a balustrade which supports two bronze Moors who ring the hours. This was the earliest, basic structure of the Torre dell'Orologio.

The tower was, however, immediately enlarged in 1499 by the addition of two side wings, giving a total of four symmetrical spans. This modification helped to accentuate the aims set for the tower in terms of perspective and stage setting; it acts as a landmark both in the Piazza itself and for the visual line leading from the Molo (pier) to the start of the Mercerie, the busiest street in Venice, giving the impression of a truly theatrical backdrop.