The Clock Tower in Venice is an early renaissance building on the north side of the Piazza San Marco at the entrance to the Merceria. It comprises a tower, which contains the clock, and lower buildings on each side. Both the tower and the clock date from the last decade of the 15th century. The lower two floors of the tower make a monumental archway into the main street of the city, the Merceria, which linked the political and religious center (the Piazza) with the commercial and financial center (the Rialto). On a terrace at the top of the tower are two bronze figures, hinged at the waist, which strike the hours on a bell. One is old and the other young, to show the passing of time. They are huge figures of great mass, necessary so that their form can be recognized at a distance. They are always known as “the Moors” because of the dark patina acquired by the bronze. The bell is also original and is signed by one Simeone who cast it at the Arsenal in 1497. Below the terrace is the winged lion of Venice with the open book, before a blue background with gold stars. Below the lion is a semi-circular gallery with statues of the Virgin and Child seated, in gilt beaten copper. On either side are two large blue panels showing the time; the hour on the left in Roman numerals and the minutes (at 5 minute intervals) on the right in Arabic numerals. Below this is the great clock face in blue and gold inside a fixed circle of marble engraved with the 24 hours of the day in Roman numerals. A golden pointer with an image of the sun moves around this circle and indicates the hour of the day. Within the marble circle beneath the sun pointer are the signs of the zodiac in gold. These are original and date from the 1490s. In the middle of the clock face is the earth (in the center) and the moon, which revolves to show its phases, surrounded by stars which are fixed in position.
The top photo is from our first visit to Venice in 1995 when the Clock Tower was in very poor condition. It underwent extensive renovation and by the time we returned to Venice in 2006 it looked fantastic. Notice bronze figures and bell in the after photo.