The town of Caorle, located on the Adriatic coast just north of Venice, was founded as a Roman port and began to grow in the Middle Ages as people settled there seeking refuge from barbarian invasions. The cathedral of Caorle was built in 1038 and is a beautiful example of Romanesque and Byzantine-Ravennate style architecture. But the real gem is its iconic bell tower, which is unlike any in the world.
Usually, bell towers have a square or rectangular base and have a parallelepipedal shape, often featuring some sort of cone-shaped tip. But many Byzantine bell towers are actually cylindrical, with flat tops. The Caorle Cathedral bell tower has a mixture of these two different styles. It’s not only one of the few remaining cylindrical bell towers in Italy, but uniquely, has a conical top instead of flat. The resulting design has some similarities to the medieval towers found in Ireland.
What’s more, you’ll notice the tower has a slight lean. Over the centuries it has tilted a few centimeters to the right, making it an even more unusual sight. And another interesting tidbit: The original church bells that rang from the tower were removed by Austrian soldiers during World War I and melted to make weapons, so in turn, the current bells were made by fusing Austrian cannons abandoned by soldiers on the coast of Caorle.
The bell tower was built shortly after the cathedral, in 1048. It measures 44 meters (144 feet) tall, and is divided into 8 floors inside. It was likely constructed from a previous structure like a watchtower, and given its position near the sea may have also been used as a lighthouse. Part of the base is built in white Istrian stone that starkly contrasts with the darker bricks that make up the rest of the tower. At the point of the cone-shaped roof, there is an iron cross with a flag marking the wind.
Know Before You Go
The bell tower has been recently renovated and is open to the public. Guided tours can be booked in advance, including evening tours in summer. Visitors can climb the steps to the top of the tower for beautiful views over the sea.