The building was surmounted by a weathercock in the form of a bronze Triton; it contained a water-clock to record the time when the sun was not shining.
The graceful bell-tower, erected in 1224-1319, named La Ghirlandina from the bronze garland surrounding the weathercock, is 335 ft.
The common story is that Lippershey, happening one day, whilst holding a spectacle-lens in either hand, to direct them towards the steeple of a neighbouring church, was astonished, on looking through the nearer lens, to find that the weathercock appeared nearer and more distinct.
But doubt may be thrown on this traditional account owing to the further statement that the image of the weathercock so viewed was seen turned upside down.
He was the creature of every passing mood or whim, incapable of cool and steady judgment or of the slightest self-control - an incalculable weathercock, blindly obsequious to every blast of passion.