How To Campinile Fell – Venice, Italy

We come now to the dolorous moment of the fall in July, 1902. Infiltration of water had been observed in the roof of Sansovino’s Loggetta where that roof joined the shaft of the Campanile. At this point a thin ledge of stone, let into the wall of the Campanile, projected over the junction between the leaden roof of the Loggetta and the shaft of the tower. In order to remedy the mischief of infiltration it was resolved to remove and replace this projecting ledge. To do this a chase was made in the will of the Campanile, which, at this point, consisted of a comparatively modern surface of masonry, placed there to repair the damage caused by lightning strokes.

This chase was cut, not piecemeal, but continuously. The work was carried out on Monday, July 7th. During the process the architect in charge became alarmed at the condition of the inner part of the wall laid bare by the cut. He exprest his fears to his superiors, but apparently no examination of the tower was made till the Thursday following. Even then the imminence of the danger does not seem to have been grasped. On Saturday, the 12th, a crack was observed spreading upward in a sloping direction from the cut above the roof of the Loggetta toward the northeast angle of the shaft, then crossing the angle and running up almost perpendicularly in the line of the little windows that gave light to the internal passage from the base to the bell-chamber.

This crack assumed such a threatening aspect, and was making such visible progress, that the authorities in charge of the tower felt bound to inform the Prefect, tho the danger was represented as not immediate, and the worst they expected was the fall of the angle where the crack had appeared. A complete collapse of the whole tower was absolutely excluded. As a precautionary measure the music in the Piazza was suspended on Saturday evening. On Sunday orders were issued to endeavor to bind the threatened angle.

But by Monday morning early (July 14th) it was evident that the catastrophe could not be averted. Dust began to pour out of the widening crack, and bricks to fall. A block of Istrian stone crashed down from the bell-chamber, then a column from the same site. At 9.47 the ominous fissure opened, the face of the Campanile toward the church and the Ducal Palace bulged out, the angle on the top and the pyramid below it swayed once or twice, and threatened to crush either the Sansovino’s Library or the Basilica of San Marco in their fall, then the whole colossus subsided gently, almost noiselessly, upon itself, as it were in a curtsey, the ruined brick and mortar spread out in a pyramidal heap, a dense column of white powder rose from the Piazza, and the Campanile was no more.

It is certainly remarkable, and by the people of Venice it is reckoned as a miracle, that the tower in its fall did so little harm. Not a single life was lost, tho the crowd in the Piazza was unaware of its danger till about ten minutes before the catastrophe.