Thursday, July 21, 2011

Messina clock tower

The astronomical clock is the most interesting component of the 60m high bell-tower on the left of the cathedral. The mechanism dating from 1933 was built in Strasbourg.   There are several different displays built into the various levels of the tower.  Each display has its own separate movement.

 At the bottom, a two-horse chariot driven by a deity indicates the day of the week; above, the central figure of Death waves his scythe threateningly at the child, youth, soldier or old man – the four ages of man – that pass before him. At the third stage, the Sanctuary of Montalto (turn left to compare it with the real one) sets the scene for a group of figures which, according to the time of year, represent the Nativity, Epiphany, Resurrection and Pentecost. At the top, the tableau enacts a scene in a local legend where the Madonna gives a letter to the ambassadors of Messina in which she thanks and agrees to protect the inhabitants of the town who were converted to Christianity by St. Paul the Apostle.  The Madonna della Lettera (Madonna of the Letter) is the patron saint of Messina.

The two young female bell-strikers are the local heroines Dina and Clarenza, who participated in the resistance against the Angevins (1282). The very top is capped with a lion who starts off the noon-time show with loud roars.   The southern side of the bell-tower (going up from the  bottom) has a perpetual calendar, the astronomical cycle with signs of the zodiac, and the phases of the moon. When the clock strikes midday, all the mechanical figures come to life while the music plays: the lion, symbol of the town, roars three times while the rooster crows from between the two girls.

Lots of fun to watch the show ... and people watch as well.

1 comment:

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