Three Monkeys Online

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Mantua’s Torre dell’Orologio

From the TMO Mantua City Guide

Mantua’s clocktower, or Torre dell’Orologio, located beside the Palazzo della Ragione (in the centrally located Piazze delle Erbe) is an interesting monument in its own right, but primarily it offers a spectacular 360° view of the city from the top of the bell tower. The tower also hosts a museum.

Mantua's Bell TowerBuilt between 1472 and 1473 by the architect Luca Fancelli, pride of place in the Clock Tower goes, though, to the magnificent Astronomical clock designed by the master clock maker Bartolomeo Manfredi (not to be confused with the painter Bartolomeo Manfredi, a leading Caravaggisti who lived more than a century later). Manfredi worked for an estimated 5500 hours, constructing this complex and beautiful clock that includes 28 individual wheels (the smallest being just two centimetres in diameter).

The Clock had a number of important functions. It was to show the hour of the day, and in what zodiacal sign the sun was in; it showed the position of the moon, and when the new moon would next come, and its relationship with the sun. It showed the cardinal points (North, South, East and WEst), and what zodiacal sign was in the ascendent. It’s bell tolled for the main points of the day.

The clock tower is just one of a series of public building built while Ludovico III Gonzaga was Marquess of Mantua. Like many other military rulers of the time, Ludovico was a strong patron of the arts, influenced strongly by his tutor Vittorino da Feltre (an educator credited with first formulating the idea of the renaissance man, the uomo universale).

Interestingly Ludovico confessed to the clockmaker that he himself had little time for astrology, believing none of it, but that he was prepared magnanimously to provide the clock to his subjects (interest in the zodiac was extremely popular throughout Europe at this time).

The clock’s complexity was its downfall in many ways. From 1700 onwards it stopped working, in need of repair. The church’s backlash against astrology, coupled with the complexity and cost of fixing the clock, ensured that the clock remained in disuse for centuries. In 1987, though, a local clockmaker and artisan, Alberto Gorla, using a manuscript from the 1500s written by Francesco Filippono, started repairing the clock in his workshop. Two years later this medieval wonder was reinstalled working once more for the people of Mantua.

Mantua’s Clock Tower – Practical Information

Tickets for the Torre dell’Orologio cost €3 (or 1.50 reduced rate). The Tower is open Tues-Fri from 10.00 to 13.00 and from 15.00 to 18.00. On Saturdays and Sundays it is open from 10.00 to 18.00.

If you are attending any exhibition in the adjoining Palazzo della Ragione, free entrance to the Clock Tower is included.