By Maggie Bell
On the morning of 14 July 1902, the bell tower, or Campanile, in Venice’s Piazza San Marco collapsed. The Campanile, an iconic feature of one of Europe’s most well-loved public spaces, had evolved since its construction in the ninth century when it functioned as a watch tower. Over the centuries the structure withstood several natural disasters, including earthquakes and floods that spurred restoration efforts by architects like Giorgio Spavento, who supplied models for repairs to the bell tower in 1489. In 1549 architect Andrea Sansovino built a small loggia adjacent to the Campanile, as well as the Libreria Vecchia (1536-88), both of which were damaged in 1902.
The Campanile had been slowly disintegrating in the days leading up to its collapse, beginning with an ominous crack in the north wall, despite earlier interventions to stabilize the structure. On 12 and 13 July the situation worsened as pieces of the tower crumbled. The tower’s final fall was a sensational event, leading to the production of faked photos attempting to recreate the destruction.
The reconstruction of the Campanile lasted ten years, and its completion was celebrated in a ceremony on 25April 25 1912, the feast day of Saint Mark.
AA.VV., Il campanile di San Marco – Il crollo e la ricostruzione, Milano, Silvana editoriale, 1992.
Marco Boscolo Bielo, Crollo e ricostruzione del Campanile di San Marco, Roma, Legislazione Tecnica Editrice, 2012.
Giovanni Antonio Canal, called Canaletto, The Piazza San Marco Looking East towards the Basilica, oil on canvas, 58.5 by 92 cm.; 23 by 36 ¼ in.
Postcard with doctored photo of the Campanile’s collapse, Antonio de Paoli 1902