The Campanile

Walking through the streets of Manhattan, people often get drawn to a mysterious light emanating from a tall baroque building. As if straight from a movie or a video game, the ruby illumination at the top of the MetLife Tower adds even more magic to NYC’s night cityscape.

The Metropolitan Life Building is located right at the edge of the Maddison Square Park. Long regarded as New York’s architectural landmark, the classy skyscraper stands proud even among newer and taller glass-and-steel constructions. In fact, it owes its charm to a truly timeless campanile design that was inspired by the St Mark’s Basilica in Venice. The massive mechanical clocks that adorn each of the four sides add to the building’s magnificence.

The tower was initially built and occupied by the Metropolitan Insurance company. MetLife, as the company is colloquially known, has built a massive business selling insurance to immigrant workers who came to America in search of a better fortune. By 1890s, it was ready to move to bigger and better headquarters, and commissioned their design from Napoleon LeBrun & Sons, a hip architectural firm of that time. As if to prove that nothing in business lasts forever, the company had to eventually sell the skyscraper, which is now converted into a luxury hotel.

The illumination on top of the tower, that looks so haunting against NYC’s night cityscape, in fact, symbolizes The Light That Never Fades. The “eternal light” system in the cupola keeps working even when electricity in the rest of the building is shut down. The graceful campanile stands as a reminder that even in the darkest of places, there is always a Light that will guide us home.


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