Horas non numero nisi serenas: ‘I only number happy hours,’ says the legend, but this 24 hour clock doesn’t always number them accurately, and gets especially muddled at the phases of the moon and signs of the zodiac.
Still, it is such a fine clock, built by Mauro Codussi in 1499, with works by Paolo and Carlo Rainieri of Reggio Emilia, that other Italian cities maliciously circulated the rumour that the Venetians tore out the eyes of the Rainieri brothers to prevent them from ever building a similar one. In reality they were given a fat pension.
Like all exotic characters in Venice, the time-darkened bronze men on top of the tower are called the ‘Moors’, proto-Morris dancers in hairyman dress. Their task of sounding the hours is complemented at Epiphany and during Ascension Week (La Sensa) when animated figures of the three Magi and an angel roll out to pay homage to the Madonna.
Images by Harshlight, Creative Commons License, Mark Longair, Creative Commons