6 January saw the fun and novelty of the Befana Regata.

But, this date is very important in the Christian world. It marks the arrival of the three Magi, bearing gifts for the new-born babe in Bethlehem.

In Venice, this is one of the days of the year (Ascension Day being the other), when something special happens on the clock tower in Piazza San Marco.

On every other day, when you look up at the tower, you will see the faces of the digital clock on either side of the Madonna.

The face on the left side shows the hours. The one on the right changes every 5 minutes.

 Sometime during the night, a city engineer stops the clock, and removes the two clock faces. Gilded doors are put into these spaces.  The four figures that will  bow before the Madonna and Child every hour on 6 January are fixed into place on a mechanised track.

This shows the doors in place before the clock strikes the hour.

On the hour, the doors open, and led by a triumphant Archangel Gabriele, the three Magi appear, passing in front of the Madonna and Child, bowing and doffing their headgear.



And then, it’s over until the next hourly appearance.

The Magi had also appeared at the presepe (Nativity) in the Chiesa dei Frari.

And, for those who have gone into pissotte withdrawals:



Filed under Venice

24 responses to “Epiphany

  1. Caroline Jones

    Thanks for the good wishes, Yvonne ! Great, hopefully we can meet up next year.


  2. No, not graffiti, it was part of the nativity scene, Annie. The whole presepe was amazing, have a look at Fausto’s blog (Alloggi Barbaria) for 27 December, to see it.


  3. Wonderful photos. You are so lucky to get to see them! About the nativity at the Frari, is that graffiti? “Stop and Mind” or maybe there was another word? Very interesting, whatever it is!


  4. Sono di Chicago

    I am so mad!!! Your pictures came out a lot better than mine did. I thought that getting too close up would create too acute of an angle. Guess not. But you’re taller than me, too.


  5. Hello Yvonne, there’s something for you if you look at my blog. : O)


  6. I’ve been following “DH’s” blog. It sounds like things are on track. Maybe I’ll meet you folks for a spritz next time I’m in Venice! 🙂


    • Caroline Jones

      We started our TEFL course yesterday & to me it’s pretty scary so far, but we’ll see how it turns out.

      That would be lovely – do you know yet when you’ll be able to get back ?


  7. Caroline Jones

    Great to see these excellent photos, Yvonne – thanks ! We also toured the Clock Tower for the first time last year and it was one of the highlights of our trip. Must remember to find out when Ascension Day is this year !

    We’ve now checked the La Fenice calendar & there’s not anything we’d be mad to see, for which tickets have already gone on sale & still have availability – but inspired by DH’s investigation into that, yesterday I booked tickets for Aida at Verona in June ! (Would have preferred Turandot but it’s only on in August, so hopefully June will be less unbearably hot !)


  8. Isn’t that clock mechanism wonderful, Pat?


  9. Pat

    So happy you posted this. I went on a tour of the Clock Tower while in Venice in Sept. Saw the Magi up close and personal inside and was shown the track they place them on.


  10. Adrew, you made me laugh so hard, I nearly have tears running down my legs! 🙂


  11. Believe me when I say it was my pleasure, Andrew.

    Um, a REAL camel, horse and elephant!? 🙂


    • Andrew

      Of course real. Have you any idea how hard it was to keep them hidden until 6th Jan.? And the mess. Our dining room will never be the same again.


  12. Andrew

    Thanks for recording this infrequent occurence,Yvonne. So many of us will never see it. I’m in charge of our presepe at church and our Magi arrived on Friday with their camel, horse and elephant. Our set is imported from the U.S. but made in Italy. We have the whole of Bethlehem. The figures are by Fontanini if you want to look them up.


  13. Michelle

    Lovely shots as usual my dear Yvonne.


  14. Bert

    The Magi are not named in the Bible, but somehow names have been ascribed to them: Melchior, Caspar and Balthasar. In Spain, each Magus is supposed to represent a continent: Europe (Melchior), Asia (Caspar) and Africa (Balthasar). The first figure (after the angel) looks lighter than the second, and the third figure is definitely black.


  15. Bert

    Looks like your new camera was worth every cent, Yvonne! Fantastic close-ups of the clock-figures. And you were blessed with sunshine!


  16. Wow! Beautiful. I note that the Magi are all dark skinned. Of course Jesus would have been too.


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