Tower of Pisa

Tower of Pisa (3)

The construction of the Tower of Pisa began in 1173, as a complement to the buildings of the Duomo and Baptistery. And in fact, the tower is the campanile of the Duomo; in other words, it is simply a bell tower that would have passed unnoticed along with hundreds of other towers in Tuscany if the land on which it stands had not subsided. But the randomness of fate has made it undoubtedly one of the most recognisable icons of Italy and the world.

While some speak of the Master Diotisalvi, most experts agree that architect and sculptor Bonanno Pisano was the author of the work, who only noticed its inclination after the first three floors had been built. Therefore, and due to wars with neighbouring states, construction froze in 1178. In 1272 Giovanni di Simona resumed the work, and although he tried desperately to straighten the Leaning Tower it preferred to lean. Back in 1319 Tommaso di Andrea Pisano finished the top floor and the building was complete in 1372, after installing its belfry.

And that’s how it stayed; as it is now. Leaning. Leaning a lot. That was its spirit from the beginning and so it will continue. The building is almost 15,000 tonnes and 58 metres high in a precariously beautiful cylindrical structure. The Romanesque tower has eight floors of 15.48 metres in diameter: a base with blind arches and 15 columns, six levels formed by an arched gallery around the central axis and, on the top floor, the bell tower, with a diameter less than the other floors. It is covered with white marble from Carrara and has numerous inlaid marble contrasts of various colours.

Above its entrance there is a niche with a fourteenth-century marble carving by Andrea Guardi from of the Madonna with Child and, on both sides, beautiful friezes depicting legendary beasts and identical ships to those of the fleet of the Republic of Pisa.

Once completed, every year the leaning tower continued to lean a little more. Many architects tried unsuccessfully to correct the deviation. Fears emerged that the tower may collapse and it was concluded that it was dangerous to visitors, so the famous building was closed to the public in 1990.

From that point, a series of works were carried out that included extracting underground water and sand and placing 900 tons of lead at the base of the building. With all this and more, the inclination was decreased several centimetres, leaving the current deviation 3.99 metres from the vertical. The same inclination it had in 1700.

Finally, the tower was reopened to visitors on December 15, 2001. Of course, it was quite an event.

It is worth the effort to join the inevitable queue to climb the 294 steps of the circular staircase to the belfry. And once there enjoy the beautiful views of the city and also to stand in the same place where Galileo Galilei once dropped two cannon balls of different masses to demonstrate that gravity accelerates all objects in the same way. 

Another interesting fact is that during World War II, the United States Army ordered the demolition of several towers in Tuscany to avoid being surprised by snipers, one of which was the Tower of Pisa. Luckily for everyone, an unexpected retreat saved it and its extravagant beauty can still be enjoyed today.

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