The bell tower of Cortina d'Ampezzo

The history of the construction of the bell tower of Cortina d'Ampezzo by Silvestro Franceschi in 1852, as well as some curiosities about what is undoubtedly the most representative symbol of Cortina.


The bell tower of Cortina, known as "el Cianpanín" in the traditional dialect, is without a doubt the most representative symbol of Cortina, as well as a representation of the pride and state of well-being achieved by the town in 1800. With its sevenrythree meters high, two hundred and fourty feet, it can be seen from any point of the Ampezzo valley. Let's discover together the history of its construction and some curiosities.

The basilica of Cortina and the bell tower

Our sources

This page is inspired by the beautiful book "El Cianpanín, storia del campanile di Cortina d'Ampezzo" by Mario Ferruccio Belli, where the author describes with many details the built of the bell tower, alternating it with original documents of the times, photographs and curiosities. It is a beautiful book to buy or give as a gift, but consider that it's written in italian. The title can be translated as "El Cianpanín, history of the bell tower of Cortina d'Ampezzo".

The bell tower of Cortina shows off itself in Corso Italia

Many of the more technical information, and some pictures, was extracted from the book "Il campanile di Cortina d'Ampezzo, l'architettura del compromesso", by Giuliano Cilione, that you can find in the civic library of Cortina. The text contains very interesting insights into the aesthetics and proportions of the bell tower, seen with the expert eye of an architect. We thank the author for reporting it to us. It0s also written in italian, and its title is translated as "The bell tower of Cortina d'Ampezzo, the architecture of compromise".

The history

The bell tower of Cortina, as we know it today, was erected by Silvestro Franceschi to replace the old bell tower from 1590. It was quite anonymous and was beginning to give some signs of abating.

The old bell tower of Cortina

The problems began with the cracking of a bell, but then worsened when pieces of stones and lime started to detach from the structure. To avoid further accidents, in 1846, the municipality of Cortina decided to demolish the previous bell tower to build a new one.

A temporary wooden bell tower was erected, to continue to notify the passing of the hours. It was a time when few people had a watch on their wrist and a way to signal liturgical celebrations and prayers was necessary.

The temporary wooden tower

For courtesy of Prof. Cilione, we can see a rare image of the old bell tower of Cortina, a representation of the temporary wooden bell tower and an image of how the foundations for the new bell tower were installed.

The foundation of the new church tower

After evaluating many different projects, the municipal administration decided to follow the idea of the engineer Hermann Bergmann from Vienna, who designed a bell tower in neo-Gothic style, that was not Tyrolean nor Cadorean. This decision was certainly conditioned by the nature of the inhabitants of Ampezzo, who felt neither completely Italian nor completely German, because of the autonomy that Cortina has always had.

Projections on the bell tower during the fashion week

The bell tower was built in Dolomia, the same white stone of which the Dolomites are made. A perfect quarry for this type of rock was identified in the Crepedel area, near Acquabona, a district of Cortina.

The name of the locality comes from the dialect word "i crepe", translated as "the rocks", or "the mountains", because in that position the rocks of Mount Faloria start to rise from the meadows. If you want to know why the stone of the Dolomites is so clear, ou may read our page about the geological history of the Dolomites, which can be found below:

Geological history of the Dolomites
Geology of the Dolomites The history of the Dolomites and Dolomite, the rock of which they are composed. Reading time: 9 min

The excavation of the foundations began in May 1852, but it was necessary to wait until 1858 to hear the sound of the first bell. The whole construction went through a series of logistical problems, very interesting administrative and social aspects that are narrated in detail in the book by Mario Ferruccio Belli. For the more curious, however, we will summarize below the salient points.

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The bells

Such a majestic bell tower must have a concert of bells that is at the same level, for this reason the administrators of Cortina, despite the large expenses already incurred, did not want to save. There was a company in Innsbruck that was very serious, and they were well known in their sector. At the time it was called Grassmajer, today it's still active under the name of Grassmayr. Here you can see their official website, only in German . The initial idea was to use three bells, as they were originally, but later it was decided to upgrade to a 6 bells chime, harmonized in the key of Bb.

The bell tower of Cortina and the shell

The bells was composed as follows: the small in F (weight: 120 kg), the second in D (weight: 192 kg), the third in Bb (weight: 361 kg), the fourth in F (weight: 860 kg), the fifth in D (weight: 1.455 t) and finally the large one in Bb (weight: 3.074 t).

The bells are the same that were forged in 1857. Probably not everyone knows that most of the bells that could be heard in Italy nowadays are not originals, they are copies. World War I required huge quantities of lead to make guns, and church bells were the easiest way to get it.

Cortina's bell tower photographed at night

The bells of Cortina, however, were saved thanks to the emperor Carlo of Astria who, passing through the Ampezzo area and hearing the sound, decided to save them from the forge, because he loved it. In memory of this event, a commemorative plaque was placed on the bell tower door. Consider that more than 1048 bells have been forged by the Grassmajer company before the war, but nowadays only nine survive, six of which are in Cortina.

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Before concluding, we want to tell you some curiosities about the Bell Tower:

The Museums of the regole of Ampezzo
The Museums of the Regole Three interesting museums: an art gallery, an ethnographic museum, and a fossil collection. Reading time: 6 min


We hope you liked this page on the bell tower of Cortina d'Ampezzo. Before saying goodbye, we would suggest you read our home page, with all the articles we wrote about Cortina d'AmpezzoInternal link .

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