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Italy's Leaning Tower of Pisa

Updated on September 15, 2014

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

If you have been fortunate enough to travel to Italy, then you know that The Leaning Tower of Pisa is generally regarded as one of the of the seven greatest wonders of the medieval world. The famous white marble tower with the sunken foundation has been an intriguing landmark in the Italian landscape for centuries.

Creative Commons photo courtesy Wikipedia/NotFromUtrecht

Background

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is the freestanding bell tower, of the cathedral of the Italian city of Pisa. It is situated behind the Cathedral and it is the third structure by time in Pisa's Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square).

Although intended to stand vertically, the tower began leaning to the southeast soon after the onset of construction in 1173 due to a poorly laid foundation and loose substrate that has allowed the foundation to shift direction. The tower presently leans to the southwest.

The height of the tower is 183.27 ft from the ground on the lowest side and 186.02 ft on the highest side. The width of the walls at the base is 13.42 ft and at the top 8.14 ft. Its weight is estimated at 14,500 tons. The tower has 296 or 294 steps; the seventh floor has two fewer steps on the north-facing staircase. The tower leans at an angle of 3.97 degrees. This means that the top of the tower is 13 ft from where it would stand if the tower were perfectly vertical.

A nighttime photo of the Duomo and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Photo courtesy Parametricformations

Construction and History

The Tower of Pisa was a work of art, performed in three stages over a period of about 177 years. Construction of the first floor of the white marble campanile began on August 9, 1173, a period of military success and prosperity. This first floor is surrounded by pillars with classical capitals, leaning against blind arches.

The tower began to sink after construction progressed to the third floor in 1178. This was due to a mere three-meter foundation, set in weak, unstable subsoil. This means the design was flawed from the beginning. Construction was subsequently halted for almost a century, because the Pisans were almost continually engaged in battles with Genoa, Lucca and Florence. This allowed time for the underlying soil to settle. Otherwise, the tower would almost certainly have toppled. In 1198, clocks were temporarily installed on the third floor of the unfinished construction.

In 1272, construction resumed under Giovanni di Simone, architect of the Camposanto. In an effort to compensate for the tilt, the engineers built higher floors with one side taller than the other. This made the tower begin to lean in the other direction. Because of this, the tower is actually curved. Construction was halted again in 1284, when the Pisans were defeated by the Genoans in the Battle of Meloria.

The seventh floor was completed in 1319. The bell-chamber was not finally added until 1372. It was built by Tommaso di Andrea Pisano, who succeeded in harmonizing the Gothic elements of the bell-chamber with the Romanesque style of the tower. There are seven....(read more at Wikipedia)

Italys Leaning Tower of Pisa safe for the next 300 years

May 29, 2008 news on the Leaning Tower. (ANI article)

The famous Leaning Tower of Pisa has stopped moving for the first time in its 800-year history and it should remain so for the next 300 years.

Engineers are confident that their hard work of more than 10 years to rescue the Leaning Tower of Pisa has been successful and should be stable for at least three centuries. All of our best hopes have been confirmed. We can now state that the tower will not move again for at least three centuries, said Michele Jamiolkowski, a Turin-based engineer who led the project.

Currently, the tower leans 13 feet off center, and has been straightened by 14.5 inches since 1999 with the help of a 40 million dollar restoration project. The tower, which has been leaning almost since building work first began in 1173, was closed to the public in 1990 because of safety concerns. The 183-foot tower was nearly 15 feet off vertical and its structure was found to have been weakened by centuries of strain.

Unless noted, photos are courtesy Creative Commons.

Have You Visited the Leaning Tower? - Make us all jealous here.

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    • profile image

      ljupcoc 4 years ago

      Wonderful experience, 2006 been there. Highly recommended!

    • profile image

      Lindrus 6 years ago

      Amazing that a building with such faulty construction still is standing! Haven't seen it, but I would like to. Thanks for your lens!

    • traveller27 profile image

      traveller27 7 years ago

      I've seen the tower but it was closed to visitors when I was there. Still great to see it, though.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Nice lens! Great information. Your readers might also be interested in discount luxury hotels and luxury hotels information. Feel free to visit and leave a feedback!

      Good luck!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      The leaning tower of Pisa looks magnificent and has withstood the pressure of time m hence it is among the seven wonders of the world. Doesn't matter the miscalculations it looks lovely and is till standing firm all these years.

    • profile image

      KettyRobinson 7 years ago

      Well, it is known fact that the Leaning tower of Pisa was not meant to be built as it stands today. The inclination it has got was not part of the original plan. The shoddy work of the architecture made it look like that. The tower is made up of white marble and had begun its tilt when the construction reached the third floor. Most of the folly lies with the engineer named Bonanna pisano, the person who made all the miscalculations. Actually the tower was constructed on a thin stone foundation and had a dense clay mixture for its foundation which was not at all promising. When it reached completion the tower had a 7 inch inclination. But still it is a historical miracle of monumental size.

      http://www.historicaltravelguide.com/the-leaning-t...

    • profile image

      CR2000 7 years ago

      Been there very lovely : )

    • Brookelorren LM profile image

      Brookelorren LM 7 years ago

      Yes I have been. Twice. I lived in Italy for three years though.

    • AppalachianCoun profile image

      AppalachianCoun 8 years ago

      Great lens and great topic. Thank-you for all the info, we didn't know it. 5 stars*****

    • profile image

      a-ha-design 9 years ago

      Great information! Hoping to visit Italy's Leaning Tower of Pisa one of these days.

      A-Ha Design

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 9 years ago

      I've been to the Leaning Tower twice. The first time it was open to the public, but I said "no thanks" and just waved to my friends. This is a fabulous addition the the Italy Group. Squid Angel Blessed.

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