«TEMPORA HORIS OLIM DESIGNANS OB BELLUM IN MACHINAM VERSAM NUNC AD OPUS MEUM RESTITUOR. MCCCCCXXXI»
Witness and symbol of the time in which it marked the hours of the day, later transformed into a fighting machine because of war, the bell was returned to its function in 1531, thanks to a clever intervention of the presbyters of St. Secondo for the value of 12 “scudi del sole”, the pregiate “coins of sun” of that time.
It is the bell of the Clock Tower itself that tells its troubled history to the city of “AST” (the ancient name of Asti) through the refined Gothic inscription that wraps around it counterclockwise, created according to the elegant style flourished in Northern Europe.
After the so-called “wars of Italy” dating back to the first half of the sixteenth century, the Spanish sacking in 1522, plague, famine and bad weather, an exhausted and poor city comes back under the control of Savoy family.
However, there would be two bells for which “20 rubbi” (metal coins) are requested; so the veil of secrecy deepens over the incomplete documentary reports made by the Council preserved in the Historical Archive of the Municipality of Asti.
What is certain is the remarkable size: 120 cm of base and equally in height, and a weight of 14 quintals, able to reproduce an E intonation.
Not even the bas-reliefs that cover the bell are left to chance, vestiges of a time when it was not bureaucracy that marked the days, but the sacredness of symbols and the magic of tradition; the evocative power of the sound that summons the community in times of danger, that reminds people to participate in public affairs through the Municipal Councils, that warns of the curfew three hours after vespers; that invites to commemorate the deceased or to honor the holidays.
To carry out the apotropaic function are the symbols recommended by Carlo Borromeo for the “sacred bronzes”; the bell still reminds the citizens of Asti to remain united against evil through the representation of St. Michael defeating the dragon, the Latin cross, the essential features of Virgin Mary and Child, Crucifixion with Virgin Mary and St. John above the city coat of arms and Christ of Piety rising from the Sepulchre.
The bronze bell is also there, in a canvas painted by Gandolfino da Roreto in 1518 in which he depicted it under the four sections of the roof of Troyana Tower, supported by the hand of the Patron St. Secondo.
From 44 meters in height this bell, which is the most ancient in Piedmont after that of Chieri, dating back to 1452 but no longer functioning, has the power to transform a private building from the thirteenth century, belonged to an usurer family working in financial activities, into an eternal symbol of unity against adversity of past and present.