The beautifully decorated 15th century Torre dell’Orologio (bell tower) is located on the north side of the Piazza San Marco. This was originally intended for orientation of sailors. The tower displays a statue of Mary, who is hailed on Ascension by the Three Kings who appear from the side doors.
On a terrace at the top of the tower are two great 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 and, although said to represent shepherds (they are wearing sheepskins) or giants (they are huge figures of great mass, necessary so that their form can be recognized at a distance) they are known as “the Moors” because of the dark patina acquired by the bronze. The bell is also original and is signed by Simeone Campanato who cast it at the Arsenal in 1497. Below this level is the winged Lion of Saint Mark with the open book, before a blue background with gold stars.’ Source: Wikipedia
“Two figures, an older man with a beard and a younger one, both the work of Ambrogio delle Ancore, from 1497, strike the clock every hour with the long hammer, which was cast by one Master Simone. The old Moor strikes first, to indicate the time that is past, then the younger to indicate the time to come […] Although the Venetians speak of Mori, they are actually giants, but they are called Moors because of the dark colour of the metal. In 1646, the man tasked with maintenance of the clock was struck by the hammer. He lost his balance, tumbled over the parapet and fell to his death.” Translated from: Luc Verhuyck ‘Venezia Anekdotische reisgids voor Venetië’ Athenaeum-Polak & van Gennep, Amsterdam 2011 p. 413
“The mechanism of the clock that was ordered for it in 1493 was seen as a miracle. The Great Council handsomely rewarded its makers, the brothers Gian Paolo and Gian Carlo Ranieri from Reggio Emilia. But because the counsellors were also afraid that the two artists might achieve such a miracle for others, they decided to gauge out their eyes.” Translated from: Luc Verhuyck ‘Venezia Anekdotische reisgids voor Venetië’ Athenaeum-Polak & van Gennep, Amsterdam 2011 p. 413
Twice a year, at Epiphany (6 January) and on Ascension Day (the Thursday 40 days after Easter, counting both days) the three Magi, led by an angel with a trumpet, emerge from one of the doorways normally taken up by these numbers and pass in procession round the gallery, bowing to the Virgin and child, before disappearing through the other door. 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 round this circle and indicates the hour of the day. Within the marble circle beneath the sun pointer are the signs of the zodiac [scorpion] in gold.’ Source: Wikipedia
Below again, 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 (inside) showing the time: the hour on the left in Roman numerals and the minutes (at 5 minute intervals) on the right in Arabic numerals. Source: Wikipedia