In front of St Mark’s, supporting three huge flags on holidays, or whenever the city feels like flying them, are Alessandro Leopardi’s bronze flagstaff bases (1505), swarming with a mythological misto del mare of tritons and nereids.
Overlooking them, and everything else in Venice, is the Golden Archangel of the Annunciation shining like a beacon atop the 325ft red brick Campanile. Although Venice looks strikingly canal-less from this exalted height, the secretive Serenissima was always very picky about who was permitted to enjoy the view, fearing that spies would peek into the Arsenal, or map the Venetians’ shipping canals through the Lagoon, easily visible at low tide.
After all, when begun in 912, the tower doubled as a lighthouse, and even afterwards the function of its five bells was entirely civic. The largest, the Marangona, signalled the beginning and end of the working day, and signalled meetings of the Maggior Consiglio; next came the Trottiera, or 'trotter' which urged the patricians to make their horses giddy-up to a trot to reach the Palazzo Ducale; then the Nona, which announced noon; the Mezza Terza the opening of the Senate; and the small but ominous Maleficio or Renghiera ('Evil Deed'), rang for an execution.
Images by Joe Shlabotnik, PD