Among the 16 villages of the Castelli di Jesi, Montecarotto assumes a particular importance for its simple beauty.

Montecarotto – Picture by Giuliano Betti

This small village inhabited by two thousand people, which is about 380 meters above sea level, marries the meeting between the two enchanted valleys of the Esino river and that of the Misa.

What remains etched in the mind of the traveller who finds himself discovering this small town, is the beauty of its panoramas, the colours that paint the sites according to the seasons, and the meeting on the horizon line between the Adriatic Sea and the gentle hills of the Umbrian-Marche Appennines.

The vastness of its panorama contrasts with the beauty of its historic centre, gathered as in most of the small and Italian villages, within a 600m long wall that serves as a fortress for magnificent churches, stately buildings and a small theatre of extreme beauty.

The walls of Montecarotto, which protect the small medieval structure, still preserve the escarpment, that architectural element with the dual function both of defence, with the enlargement of the base of the tower keeps the enemy further away from the outer limit of the city , and also reinforcement of the foundations of the entire walls.

There are five towers that intersperse the length of the city walls, on the eastern side of the town we can observe one still in perfect state of preservation, the cylindrical tower, crowned by a double order of “corbels”, wooden or stone shelves that are necessary to support a part of the building which has a thickness greater than that below, and Ghibelline battlements that have the characteristic dovetail top.

But the image that gives identity to Montecarotto is strongly linked to the majestic tower that overlooks the central square of the village, the tower that is guardian of time!

The cylindrical clock tower tells us about one of the greatest achievements of this small town in the Marche region, that of the production of tower clocks.

The civic bell towers have had the function in history of quantifying time, of measuring the passing of hours through sound.

This was possible thanks to the presence inside these towers of a mechanical clock, with or without an exposed dial, which thanks to a refined mechanism beat the hours on the bells.

In Marche there has been a long family of watchmakers and the greatest exponent of the art of high precision of the nineteenth century was Pietro Mei, born in Montecarotto, known throughout Italy for his genius and for his innovation in the construction of tower clocks.

Montecarotto – mechanism of the clock tower, Picture by Giuliano Betti

Here in his town of origin he had set up his laboratory by creating many clocks in the Marche and in the neighboring regions, with intuitive and manual mechanisms in civic and bell towers that marked the days of many cities through the tolling of clock hands and bells .

Pietro Mei made machines that appear more compact than those built by his masters and as he describes them with his words machines built with “cleanliness and elegance“. One of the examples of the Marche clock built by Mei is preserved intact and still functioning in Montecarotto.

On the first floor of the tower, reachable through a walkway, a path going round the walls and hidden behind the battlements of the walls, you get to the room where the clock face is kept, where we can observe the rod connecting the pendulum and the weights.

From here, following a wooden staircase, a great surprise awaits us, waiting to be admired by us is the clock mechanism.

A pendulum mechanism operates through the weights that ‘fall’ down inside the tower and exploiting the action of gravity, move the mechanism which in turn activates the hammers that beat the bells.

On the escapement wheel of the mechanism, we read “P. Mei Montecarotto n ° 22” the serial number tells us that this is the 22nd manual winding clock designed and built by Pietro Mei in 1849.

We have the opportunity to observe closely the highest part of the tower, the bell tower, which houses two bells placed at slightly different heights, a larger one, the “bell of the hours” of 1849, and a smaller bell that marks the quarter-hours made in 1572.

Two hammers connected to the weights will strike the larger bell on the hour, one strike for each hour, a hammer on the small bell will make a strike for every quarter of an hour.

The two hammers will come together at the same time to ring the bell at the time of the sundial (meridiana), a ring that is repeated three times a day, at noon, at midnight and at five in the morning.

Once every twenty-four the hour weights need to be reset, while the quarter-hour weights and the sundial can be loaded less frequently.

A ringing that is repeated every 15 minutes, the time necessary to observe, beyond the roofs of the houses, the Conero Riviera, the peaks of the Central Appennines and the beauty of the surrounding valleys.

I have always believed, as a child, that time had stopped in Montecarotto, because its beauty remained unchanged over the years.

Today, however, I can say that time takes on a different meaning here, time has taken care of this place, carrying on striking, preserving its art and its beauty.

A small village that still makes its wonders known, by Pietro Mei di Montecarotto, the watchmaker par excellence of the nineteenth century.

 

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