Never just an ivory tower, or a monument, the Campanile is a trusty landmark, a familiar friend, a treasure trove of history, a music box, a guardian, a solace and a thing of great beauty. But most of all, it is a symbol of the university’s lofty vision and enduring contribution to California and the world.


The Bells: Did You Know?

23 bells

A carillon needs at least 23 bells – the tower began with a 12-bell chime.


Fear of World War I submarine attacks delayed the first bells’ arrival on a British ship.


The bells played for two continuous hours at the end of World War II.

Herbie Hancock

Famous jazz pianist Herbie Hancock gave a concert on the chimes in 1968.


Famous artist Ruth Asawa sculpted the young bears on the 5.25-ton Great Bear Bell.

Berkeley Medal

The prestigious Berkeley Medal was once the Berkeley Carillon Medal.

Hands & Feet

Carillonists play with their feet as well as with their hands.


“The coolest job in the world”


“Natural Frequencies”


Sounds of the Tower


How many fossils are in the Campanile?

Some 20 tons of ancient fossils – about 300,000 individual objects – are housed on five levels of the tower.

How did they get there?

UC paleontologists excavated most of them in the early 1900s from tar pits in prehistoric Los Angeles. Tar pits form when natural asphalt seeps up from the ground and creates pits or lakes. Fossils from the La Brea tar pits were brought to the Campanile for storage in 1913, before the tower was completed. More fossils, from the McKittrick tar pits in San Joaquin Valley, arrived in the 1930s.

How many animals – and what kinds – were trapped in the tar pits?

It’s hard to say, since there were no whole skeletons found in the sticky tar seeps, and countless more fossils still are stuck there. UC Berkeley’s fossils include the remains of many animals, such as saber-toothed cats, horses, camels, ground sloths and birds like the vulture, which fed on animals caught in the tar.

What is the most common fossil in the tower?

The No. 1 fossil is that of the dire wolf, an extremely common large, wild dog that lived throughout North America 10,000 years ago, but then became extinct.

In the No. 2 slot is Smilodon, the saber-toothed cat that weighed between 750 and 900 pounds and became the California state fossil in 1974. Professor and UC Berkeley alumnus Donald Savage in the Department of Paleontology lobbied to make that happen.

Why can’t the public see the fossils?

Most of the fossils are stored in cabinets and taken out only for research and teaching purposes. The collections also aren’t exhibited on campus; public research universities rarely have space for that. But you can see a skeleton of Smilodon in the Valley Life Sciences Building and a Smilodon sculpture outside McCone Hall.

According to campus lore, the Campanile’s elevator door used to open onto the levels where the fossils are stored, and animal skeletons were dramatically positioned to scare tower guests.

Why are the fossils still in the tower?

It’s unusual to store fossils in a bell tower, but the location suited students in the early 1900s with paleontology class in nearby Bacon Hall. Today, students and researchers work in the tower measuring, sampling and observing the fossils, and students and staff curate and catalog there. The Valley Life Sciences Building, where paleontology and integrative biology are taught, is close by. So is McCone Hall, home to the geology department. There is no comparable space for the fossils elsewhere on campus.


“Not just dusty old rooms”


Phoebe Apperson Hearst
Phoebe Apperson Hearst
A major benefactress to the university and its first woman regent, she finances an international architectural competition in the late 1800s to produce a new look for the campus.
John Galen Howard
John Galen Howard
Hired in 1901 as university supervising architect, he’s the fourth place winner in Hearst’s competition. He finds winner Emile Bénard’s design “utterly impractical” and develops his own. It includes a centerpiece bell tower.
Jane Sather
Jane Sather
Another early donor to the university in the early 1900s, she requests the Jane K. Sather Campanile and provides $225,000 for the project, including bells. She dies in 1911; construction begins in 1913.
Ronald Barnes
Ronald Barnes
UC Berkeley becomes internationally known for modern carillon music because of Barnes, who as carillonist from 1982-1995 creates music based solely on the carillon’s unique sounds. Previously, carillonists adapted music from other instruments to the carillon.
John C. Merriam
John C. Merriam
This paleontologist and alumnus, who joins the faculty in 1894, leads large-scale excavations at the La Brea tar pits in Southern California. The Campanile becomes home to these bones.
Benjamin Ide Wheeler
Benjamin Ide Wheeler
During his 20 years (1899-1915) as university president, 11 permanent buildings are erected, including the tower. The number of students, faculty and departments grows; UC divisions and programs are added elsewhere in California; research is encouraged and the Graduate Division is established.
Margaret Murdock
Margaret Murdock
For 60 years, she plays the Campanile bells. After graduating from the UC in 1918 with an economics degree, she earns her M.A., then becomes a campus education credentials counselor. She first plays the bells in 1923 and retires in 1983; the carillon keyboard is named after her.
Jerry and Evelyn Chambers
Jerry and Evelyn Chambers
A gift from the Chamberses and others in the Class of 1928 provides new bells for the Campanile in the late ‘70s. In the ‘80s, the couple’s generosity also funds an international bell festival, the University Carillonist position, a campanology library, practice rooms and keyboards, and a carillon festival every five years.
Paul Debevec
Paul Debevec
An alumnus, he creates “The Campanile Movie,” a short film that premieres in 1997 at an L.A. computer graphics convention. Its novel virtual cinematography techniques are used for the 1999 hit movie “The Matrix.”
Jeff Davis
Jeff Davis
University Carillonist since 2000, Davis’ program to teach a new generation of carillonists is the nation’s most extensive one. Last year, his former student Brian Tang placed second at the world’s most prestigious carillon competition – the International Carillon Competition Queen Fabiola in Belgium.