In the 15th Century, many of the great cities of Europe constructed large clocks whose mechanisms, in addition to telling the time, indicated phases of the moon, the astrological zodiac, and entertained through the use of moving figures that enacted some morality tale or biblical event. Of the examples I’ve seen on my travels the crowds that congregate on the hour to watch the movement of the clock in Prague were the most impressive. By comparison, the clock in Piazza San Marco gets little attention.
It’s very decorative, and the blue face with golden details is certainly eye-catching, but people look up, take a picture or two and then move on, whether due to the lack of drama (no moving figures here) or the surfeit of alternative visual delights on offer I don’t know.
There are moving figures; two large bronze men (possibly Cain & Abel) on the roof strike the bell every hour, but for many in the square below the angle prevents a clear view. Never mind, there’s the rotating procession of the Magi coming to worship the figures of Jesus and Mary above the clock face. They appear every Epiphany (the festival which commemorates their visit) and Ascension (which has no logical basis at all). Twice a year. That’s it!
I’m reminded of the old joke about a broken clock being accurate twice a day.