campanile (kămpənēˈlē, Ital. kämpänēˈlā) [key], Italian form of bell tower, constructed chiefly during the Middle Ages. Built in connection with a church or a town hall, it served as a belfry and watch tower and often functioned as a civic or commemorative monument. The campanile generally stands as a detached unit. At the top is the bell platform, where the main architectural emphasis, generally a group of arched openings, is concentrated. Originating in the 6th cent., the campaniles were the earliest church towers in Europe and were generally circular in shape; examples of this type remain at Ravenna. Beginning with the 8th cent., the square plan became most common, being constructed in all parts of Italy. The Lombardy section produced the richest development of the campanile. Brick is the material most used, often combined with stone for the cornices and string courses, the latter surrounding the tower at each story level in the Roman examples. The celebrated campanile of Florence, known as Giotto's campanile (1334), is entirely faced in marble and ornamented with sculptures. Also of marble is the leaning tower at Pisa.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.