'The Master of the House'
A few minutes before 10 o'clock, on the morning of July 14th 1902, the campanile in Piazza San Marco suddenly came crashing to the ground. The ancient and venerable bell tower, which had dominated the piazza for more than a thousand years, was suddenly no more than a huge pile of rubble.
The collapse of the tower could have done untold damage to the surrounding buildings, but it fell, according to the Venetians, 'like a gentleman', destroying nothing more than the Loggetta del Sansovino and the corner of the Biblioteca Marciana. By some miracle, the only fatality was the cat of the caretaker of the bell tower.
In a city of bell towers, the towering brick edifice in Piazza San Marco was the tallest (99 metres/325 feet) as well as the oldest. It was known affectionately by the Venetians as 'el paron di casa' ('the master of the house').
The decision was immediately taken to rebuild the bell tower dov' era e com' era (where it was and how it was). However, there were a few dissenting voices who suggested doing nothing at all; the piazza, they thought, looked better without its bell-tower!
The campanile was duly rebuilt by Luca Beltrami and Gaetano Moretti and officially re-opened on April 25th, 1912, exactly one thousand years after the foundation of the original structure had, supposedly, been laid. April 25th is, of course, the feast day of St Mark the Evangelist, Venice's patron saint.
A gilded statue of the Archangel Gabriel crowns the bell tower, a reference to the popular belief that the city Venice was founded on the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25th) in the year 421.