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The Clock Tower at Messina
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Clock Tower at Messina

The Clock Tower at Messina

Messina's Cathedral was originally built in Norman  times, but only in 1197, in a ceremony presided over by Henry VI of Swabia ( the father of Frederick II, who lived and was  buried in Messina), was it dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

At the beginning of the 16th century, Martino Montanini planned what was to be, at 90 metres, the highest bell-tower in Sicily.

Struck by lightning in 1588, it was rebuilt by Andrea Calamech in around 1575.

The base of the belltower originally housed the city archives, which were taken by the Spanish in 1678 and transported to Seville, where they remain to this day. 

The old bell-tower, damaged in the earthquake of 1783, was demolished soon  afterwards. The present tower, designed by Valenti, imitates the forms of its predecessor.

It was built after 1908, and in 1933 became home to the largest animated clock in the world, work of the Ungerer brothers from Strasbourg.

Clock mechanic-figurative

The majestic steeple houses a clock which is unique in the world for its complexity, built by the Ungerer firm of Strasbourg to the orderer of Archbishop Paino (1933).

The machinery is made up of partial devices with gears and levers, self-contained in their individual operation corresponding to the various scenes; it is run and gets its kinetic energy from a powerful counterweight mechanism of clockwork, set in the central storey of the building.
This in its turn is fed by an electric motor powerful enough to lift the counterweights themselves. If is this central mechanism that sets in motion the pointers of the dials, starts the sound of quarters and hours, the movements of the various pictures passing within the span of the 24 hours, while the movements and the sound effects occurring from 12 to 12,15 are initially started by the same central mechanism and then each figure passes the starting signal on to the following one, after completing its own movement.

From the figurative and symbolical viewpoint, on the front overlooking the square there are the scenes referring to the civil (Dina and Clarenza) and religious history of Messina (Church of Montalto and Madonna of the Letter); to the liturgical periods (Christmas, Epiphany, Resurrection and Whitsun); to human symbology (the four ages of life marked by the Scythe of Death); to animal symbology (cock = intellicence; lion = strength); to the passing of days (roundabout of the week).

On the front looking on to the facade of the Cathedral are indicated the astronomical phenomena corresponding to the current day, whose date also is shown by an Angel with an arrow (calendar, phases of the moon, planetarium).

In the belfry there is a peal of eight bells weighing 160 quintals on the whole, which every day ring the alarm, at the end of the midday movements.




Group Leader:

Antonella M.

Working Group:

Melinda F.

Sasa N.

2nd form/A

School year 2004/2005

I.I.S. Carlo Urbani

Rome Italy


Coordinator: Prof. Noemi Lusi

Website created by Prof. Noemi Lusi
Some online sources
To be used only for didactic purposes
Want to get in touch?
You can send me an e-mail at:
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Website created by Prof. Noemi Lusi


Some online sources
Site to be used only for didactic purposes

Want to get in touch?
You can send me an e-mail at: