The Clock Tower in Venice is an early renaissance building on the north side of the Piazza San Marco at the entrance to the Merceria. It comprises a tower, which contains the clock, and lower buildings on each side. It adjoins the eastern end of the Procuratie Vecchie. Both the tower and the clock date from the last decade of the 15th century, though the mechanism of the clock has subsequently been much altered.
It was placed where the clock would be visible from the waters of the lagoon and give notice to everyone of the wealth and glory of Venice. The lower two floors of the tower make a monumental archway into the main street of the city, the Merceria, which linked the political and religious centre (the Piazza) with the commercial and financial centre (the Rialto). Today it is one of the 11 venues managed by the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia.
On a terrace at the top of the tower are two great bronze figures, hinged at the waist, which strike the hours on a bell. One is old and the other young, to show the passing of time and, although said to represent shepherds (they are wearing sheepskins) or giants (they are huge figures of great mass, necessary so that their form can be recognized at a distance) they are always known as "the Moors" because of the dark patina acquired by the bronze. The bell is also original and is signed by one Simeone who cast it at the Arsenal in 1497.
Below this level is the winged lion of Venice with the open book, before a blue background with gold stars. There was originally a statue of the Doge Agostino Barbarigo (Doge 1486-1501) kneeling before the lion, but in 1797, after the city had surrendered to Napoleon, this was removed by the French, who were purging the city of all symbols of the old regime.