Stepping onto the UC Berkeley campus from any direction, visitors and students alike can immediately notice our Sather Tower cresting above the trees. Walking – or sprinting to class – is made more enjoyable accompanied by Campanile’s hourly toll or its thrice-a-day concerts. This year, the Campanile became an even more central character in our campus’ narrative, as 2015 marked its 100th birthday.
At 307 feet tall, the Campanile remains the third-tallest freestanding clock and bell tower in the world, beaten only by Belgium’s tower and Italy’s Campanile, the Venetian tower after which our tower was named. Its collection of bells began with a dozen installed in 1917, and has swelled to a total of 61 from other class donations and university benefactors.
In order to celebrate the treasured tower’s centennial, numerous events and celebrations occurred over the course of 2015. The birthday festivities kicked off in February, with an event entitled “Natural Frequencies.” Using data from UC Berkeley’s seismometer, the performance displayed lights and music to mimic and illuminate the Hayward Fault’s real-time movements.
Charter Day, the University’s birthday, fell during Spring Break this year, but earlier in March, students, staff, and visitors could visit the Campanile steps for cupcakes, to celebrate both the university’s founding as well as the Campanile’s birthday.
On Cal Day, the yearly campus open house in mid-April to showcase the campus to newly admitted students as well as to the Cal community, provided another opportunity to celebrate the beloved Sather Tower. Bandaloop, a vertical dance group, performed vertical acrobatics off the sides of the Campanile, to music. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people so silent on the Cal campus: people stood, sat, stopped, enchanted as they gazed up at the tower. It was so exciting that this event not only brought attention to the tower’s centennial, but also that it could unite so many disparate people, illustrating the power of the Campanile as a symbol of unity on this campus.
Homecoming Weekend in early October marked the culmination of the yearlong festivities, with a birthday party at the tower’s esplanade. Cupcakes were once again provided, birthday hats in the shape of the Campanile were distributed, and as an extremely rare occurrence, the bells played “Happy Birthday” for the last time until the Campanile’s bicentennial.
Sather Tower provides incredible and inspiring views for those who ride to the top and observe the gem of the campus as well as glimpse out across the Bay. It stands as a figure and participant in campus traditions: blue spotlights and spirited images are projected onto the tower during Big Game Week, every Friday at noon Cal songs waft through the campus, and on the final Friday before finals’ week, the bells play the ominous “Hanging of Danny Deever” and then are silenced until exams end. It’s instantly recognizable and a beloved treasure on our campus.
Happy birthday, Sather Tower. May your bells always toll, may your views continue to inspire, and may your next 100 be as golden as the first
To find out more about the Campanile and this year’s celebrations, check out this website: