Built in the 15th Century, the tower features a carving of the Lion of Saint Mark, a statue of the Madonna and Christ Child, a vast clock face marking 24 (not 12) hours, the moon phases and the houses of the zodiac and is surmounted by a huge bell on which the hours are struck by two hammer-wielding Moors scantily clad in animal skins.
For the first eight years of our visiting Venice, the clock was under wraps and under restoration. We saw this extraordinary edifice for the first time in 2006 when the scaffolding finally came down, but it was only this year that we got to witness a special feature of the clock that is only ever seen twice a year...
During Ascension Week and on the Feast of Epiphany (January 6th) the panels to the right and left of the central statue, which normally display the hour and minutes on giant revolving drums, are removed and replaced with doors that, every hour (from 9.00-5.00) open onto the balcony allowing elaborate automata figures of a trumpet-tooting Angel and the gift-bearing Magi to process before the Virgin and Child, tipping their crowns as they pass.
It was raining at 9 o'clock on the 6th January, when the Wise Men and their Angelic Companion made their debut appearance of the day. Apart from a lot of bedraggled pigeons and a handful of disinterested caribinari, David and I were the only witnesses to the event; which, as you will see from David's video, is probably just as well!
Images: © Photos, Brian Sibley; Video, David Weeks, 2008