The column once stood slightly further away than its present position, and was used as an experiment by Galileo Galilei to demonstrate the effectiveness of his most recent invention: the telescope. It is said that it once supported a statue of Doge Domenico Contarini.
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Prior to 1902 it was located was at the mouth of the Rio dei Vetrai and, apparently, supported the statue of the Doge Domenico Contarini, particularly loved by the Murano people as he had granted them the privilege of minting oselle, ancient gold coins. During his dogeship, in fact, the Muranese were again granted the privilege of minting the golden oselle in order to keep a ceremony (of ancient origins) going, during which the Doge gave this gold coin - which showed both the image of Saint Mark and his own effigy printed on the two faces - to some personalities of the Republic on Christmas day.
The Colonna owes its widespread fame to Galileo Galilei, as it was used as a reference point to show the Senate of the Serenissima what could be seen from the Campanile of San Marco thanks to his latest creation: the telescope. As witnessed by a note dated August 21, 1609 by the Prosecutor Antonio Priuli:
... place an eye (on the eyepiece), and tightening the other one of us ... you could see the people getting on and off the ferry gondolas at the Colonna at the beginning of the Rio de 'Verieri, with many other details in the lagoon and in the city truly admirable.
On the 24th of August, Galilei offered his latest creation to the Doge Leonardo Donà delle Rose, receiving the appointment of a lifetime professor at the University of Padua with a doubling of his salary.
On the 7th of June 2009 - on the occasion of the celebrations for the international year of astronomy and in the presence of the President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano - the plaque in memory of the first observations made by Galilei from atop the bell tower of San Marco was unveiled, with the inscription: ‘From here, Galileo Galilei with his telescope on August 21, 1609 widened the horizons of man four centuries ago’, promoted and financed by the National Committee for the celebrations of the IV centenary of the invention of Galileo Galilei's telescope with the collaboration of the Procuratoria of San Marco, the Patriarchate of Venice and of Prof. Francesco Bertola of the University of Padua.