World’s Largest Mechanical and Astronomical Clock Still Chiming After 83 Years


At noon on February 20, 2016, a tour group watched as the world’s largest astronomical clock, the Bell Tower of the Cathedral of Messina, put on a 12-minute display that has told the civil and religious story of the town with a multifaceted system of counterbalances, weights and mechanisms since its inauguration in 1933.

The Orologio astronomico di Messina

As part of an Information, Tickets and Tours (ITT) trip that is exclusive to military members, the group was led by Sicilian tour guide Tania Nava, who was born and raised in the town and blended her knowledge of the province with the historical events to create an informational and engaging trip.

“I grew up learning about our history and about our cultural in school,” said Nava. “It is my delight to share these stories with people who are eager to learn and explore the beautiful Sicilian cities and countryside.”

Nava explained the history of the clock tower during the tour. She said that it was designed by the firm Ungerer of Strasbourg and inaugurated in 1933. To date, it is the city’s main attraction. The theme and significance of the clock is the story it tells of a prodigious war that started in 1282.

“There are several important components of the Bell Tower at the Cathedral,” said Nava. “the rooster represents the army that was sent over by the pope, together with the French troops. The lion represents the population of Sicily. The two women are Dina and Clarenza, which represent the women of Sicily who helped out the Sicilians during the war against the pope army and the French. You have the parade of the days of the week, represented by a Greek god. There are four statues that represent he stages of life, the child grown out to the old age. Then you have the dove that flies over the desert area. One of the legends is that when the dove was flying over this rough and unpopulated area, he settled at one spot to mark it and so the church was built, and this is the site of the last battle of the war.”


Military members enjoyed hearing about the history and were impressed with the intricacy of the design and mechanisms.

“Even though none of the original sound still works, it was a spectacle to see,” said Aviation Administrationman Second Class Alexandria Galosi, one of the participants on the tour. “My favorite part was near the end when they played Ave Maria by Schubert. That really makes the whole show extremely touching, powerful. You feel it in your stomach so to speak.”

For more information or to schedule a tour, check out ITT trips at Sigonella Morale, Welfare, and Recreation offices at


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