10 Facts about the Campanile

  • 25 October 2017 | By Anje Rautenbach

The Campanile has been standing iconically tall in Nelson Mandela Bay since 1923 and after 2 years of renovations this 51.8 meter tower opened its doors to the public once again on the 15th of August 2017 with a few new modern additions to tell the story of not only of the Campanile, that houses the largest carillon of bells in South Africa, but also to tell the story of democracy. 

Watch the short video:

10 Facts about the Campanile

#1: The Campanile structure is reminiscent of the famous St Mark's Campanile in Venice, which is 320 feet high. The Campanile in Nelson Mandela Bay is 170 feet (51.8 meters) high from natural ground level to the tip of the pyramid roof.

#2: A competition for the design of the tower was open to the whole of South Africa in 1920 but all the entries were found to be too costly and local Port Elizabeth architect, W J McWilliams, then offered his services to design a simpler edifice. The design was approved on the 10th of March 1922 and finished late 1923.

#3: While the Campanile was built to commemorate the arrival of the British Settlers it was restored to showcase a new democracy and it plays a significant role in the Bay as the start of Route 67, a route that tells the story of Nelson Mandela’s contribution to South Africa and the 67 years he worked for the country’s democracy.   

#4: The frieze at the Campanile’s entrance was made in 2011 by the talented MKhonto Gwazela and it is a celebration of the indigenous heritage of Nelson Mandela Bay.

#5: On every floor of the Campanile (that is available) there is an art exhibition that can move and change and will give an opportunity to creatives in the city to showcase their talents or it can be used for specific celebrations and events.

#6: On the viewing level there is a big window where one can step beyond the Campanile’s wall, 300 mm outside the wall, to enjoy the view of the harbour.

#7: There is interactive visual-technology array in the Campanile call the ‘Ghost Bells’ – bell proxies installed under the actual bell carillon will visually light up during chiming and visitors can experience this as well when they press the keys of an interactive ‘piano keyboard’ to match the pitch of a key with the corresponding bell.

#8: The Campanile bell can now play any melody which gets programmed into its state-of-the-art digital interface.

#9: The 67th step is marked with a silver plaque as the Campanile represents the start of Route 67 in honour of Madiba.

#10: Previously the Campanile was not accessible to everyone, but with the renovations an elevator was installed which enables the elderly and visitors with special needs to enjoy the experience as well.


The Campanile is open to the public on weekdays from 09:00 to 16:00 and Saturdays from 09:00 to 15:00. Admission is free but donations are welcomed.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Featured Posts