Campanile di San Marco
The Campanile di San Marco, or Belltower of St. Mark's, has stood for more than a thousand years--or for less than a century, depending on how you define "truth in advertising."
The present-day structure was built in 1912 as an exact replica of its predecessor, which collapsed unexpectly on the morning of July 14, 1902. Ian Littlewood's Venice: A Literary Companion quotes an American architect's eyewitness report of the slow-motion implosion in The Times of London:
Some Venetians claimed that St. Mark's Square looked better without the tower, and others thought it was foolish to spend taxpayers' money on a replacement. In the end, donations from outside Venice covered most of the expense, and a rebuilt Campanile was christened on April 25, 1912--exactly 1,000 years after the foundations of the original structure had been laid, according to historians of the time.
A solar-powered lighthouse
Although "campanile" means "bell tower," the Campanile di San Marco did double duty as a military watchtower when it was constructed in the 10th Century. Later, as the tower was expanded and refined, its bronze-sheathed roof caught the sun's rays and acted as a daytime beacon for mariners.
The Campanile received an overhaul in the early 1500s after being damaged by an earthquake, giving it the profile that we see today. It also received its share of historic visitors, including Galileo (who showed the Doge his famous telescope in 1609), Goethe (who viewed the Adriatic from the arched windows), and Emperor Frederick III of the Holy Roman Empire, who is said to have ridden his horse up the tower in 1452.
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