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
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).
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).
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.
School year 2004/2005
I.I.S. Carlo Urbani
Coordinator: Prof. Noemi Lusi