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Bell Tower Trivia

campanile San MarcoSome various and sundry details about the bell towers of Venice.

The campanile di San Marco is the tallest of them all, of course, at 315 feet (97 meters). Second place is a tie between the Frari and San Francesco della Vigna ; both of these towers rise to 224 feet (69 meters). The Venetian nickname for the San Marco tower is “el paron de casa” which means “master (or lord) of the house.”

Santa Maria della Salute has two towers (photo below), but only one of them has bells in it. You can listen to these beautiful bells on Trek Capri’s blog!


Most every church has some bells even if they no longer have a tower. Many churches have what’s called a “Roman-style” bell tower – not a free-standing campanile but visible bells in a little tower usually on the roof of the church. The bells in the photo below are from the Rialto church of San Giacometto, which used to have a free-standing tower that was destroyed in a 1514 fire.

San Giacometto

The bells in the campanile of the church of Santo Stefano are British. In 1585, the tower was struck by lightning and collapsed, and its bells melted in the fire. The tower was rebuilt, and the new bells came from England where Catholic churches were being stripped and closed by Queen Elizabeth I. This is one of several "leaning towers" in Venice.

Santo Stefano

In 1595, the tower of the church of San Leonardo collapsed, destroying the church and ten adjacent houses, and killing ten people.

The church of Sant’Elena has the most modern tower, built in 1950-60 to replace the one destroyed in 1806 by the French.

Today many of the towers have electromechanical bell ringing systems but some of them still have manual bells. And a few of them have no bells at all, like the church of San Stae’s tower which is so unstable that it’s not safe to ring any bells.

Among the oldest (dating back to the 11th c.) are the Gesuiti, San Geremia, San Canciano, San Nicolo dei Mendocoli, and San Samuele (below).

San Samuele

The Geometry of Venice is a dense but interesting research study into the position of the Venetian bell towers with some intriquing discoveries about triangles~

“Actually…48 out of 50 belfries, adjacent to ancient churches built before the end of XI century, are connected by a huge network of 61 Pythagorean triangles.Evidently, a sound network of acoustic and visual guidelines could give a better sense of security to Serenissima Republic citizens.”

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Comments (9)

I think you should teach a course on this - you are definitely an aficionado on Venice:-)

As always, a great education for me again..mahalo.

Cool - what about my favourite campanille - San Giorgio Maggiore . . . any trivia for that one?

Thanks M!


Jerry, I wrote about that church a while back. That campanile collapsed in the 18th century and killed a monk. Also the angel on top was struck by lightning and burned. I think Andasamo has a photo of the burnt angel (it's inside now and there's a new copy on top). Hope you're having a great time in Italy!

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Annie, this is an awesome post and I found the conclusions in the research study very interesting. The video I took of the Maria della Salute church bell ringing (which is one of my favorite videos), while I was inside had such an emotional impact on me. And it was more than the acoustics, it was the combination and tone of each bell as they all orchestrated together. I think the hypothesis in the study could be right. There seems to be a reason for how things were built to be more pleasing rather than being random. I love Venice even more for that...

I enjoyed reading and looking at your wonderful photos. The Venetian nick name for the San Marco Tower is so cool. Thank you so much for another wonderful and informative post.

Kathy, thanks for your comments. I'm so glad you took that video when you were at the festa. I really want to go to Venice in November for that after reading about your experiences.


How on earth did you come across that paper on the Geometry of Venice, Annie?
The maths is very impressive and far beyond me, but I do find it incredible (in the true original meaning of the word) that the campanili of Venice were planned that way. First objection: why?
Second objection: I think if you are selective enough, and reject the data that don't fit, you can prove anything. I'd like to see the locations of the campanili plotted as a function of time.

Hi Bert, good to hear from you! I knew you'd like that report. :)

I found it the same way I find anything interesting on the Internet...by accident while looking for something else!

Daniel said the same thing...why? I'd love to see the locations plotted by time - maybe a project for you?!? My issue is how easy would it have been to plan anything when you're building a city on mud flats? But if it's an accident, well then it goes into the realm of mystical (which isn't that far fetched for Venice!).

Very cool. I love bell towers. Interesting info. Also loved Kathy's bell video (missed it when she posted it). Thanks for sharing.

You did a lot of research, didn't you? You really should write a book about Venice! You know so much about it!

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 16, 2010 8:04 AM.

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