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Friday Slide Show: The Campanile Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

13 October 2017

It is fondly known as the Campanile although it is named Sather Tower. But there being a Sather Gate already, calling it the Campanile only helps to distinguish it in its own right as a much loved symbol of the University of California at Berkeley.

As the banner on the home page of our personal site (under which we publish Photo Corners) shows, the Campanile is visible from miles away in San Francisco.

We've been ascending it since it was just 10 cents a ride up the elevator. It's now risen to $3 for those 18 and older, $2 for alums and seniors and free for anyone 17 or younger.

And that elevator doesn't go to the top. There's another 38 narrow stairs to navigate before you stand under the bells of the world's third tallest bell and clock tower in the world.

As you ascend, you are shooting past 20 tons of ancient fossils stored in the lower five levels of the tower.

This year just happens to be the 100th anniversary of the Campanile. Although it was built in 1914, it didn't open to the public until 1917. And then it had just 12 bells. In 1979 the bell tower was expanded to a concert carillon with 48 bells and in 1983 to a grand carillon with the current 61 bells.

University Carillonist Jeff Davis explains how it all works:

We relied on it religiously when we attended the University. We don't wear a watch now and didn't then either. And smartphones had not been invented yet. So the Campanile told us the time. We knew exactly how fast to run to make it to class.

And it still does. Although now it is telling us exactly how much time is left on the parking meter.

A few days ago we returned to campus to show some visitors the place. And once again we ascended the Campanile.

We didn't really want to. We're no longer convinced of our invincibility. Quite the contrary. Turning around in the shower is often the equivalent of a a harrowing amusement park ride. (Well, the floor of the shower isn't flat, after all.)

So standing up on the platform looking through the protective bars gives us the willies (and even confounded autofocus). We have to hang onto something. With both hands. Which makes photography difficult.

You could say, with only a little exaggeration, that we risked our life for these photos atop the Campanile. We hope you enjoy them.

Whatever the word "Berkeley" means to you, particularly in these days of social unrest, the Campanile has always stood for the heights to which good people can aspire.

Which has always been music to our ears.

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