Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a freestanding bell tower located in the city of Pisa in Italy. Like its name suggest, it actually does lean to one side. The tower started to lean during construction because the foundation was built on soft ground that had difficulty supporting the weight. The lean became worse as construction continued for several decades. Between 1990 and 2001 it was stabilized and the lean was partially fixed.
Humans make mistakes, after all, no human is perfect. One mistake made in the 11th century resulted in a 14,500 ton leaning tower. This miscalculation would later become a symbol of civic pride, but tell that to the man who designed it!
The learning tower of Pisa, known as Torre Pendente di Pisa in Italian, is different than most medieval architecture. This particular section won't cover the highly advanced construction techniques that were used, it is important to mention how this tower's design is significant.
The Leaning Tower is the third oldest building on Pisa's Piazza del Duomo (cathedral square), the Cathedral and Baptistry were first.
Utilizing many columns and archs, this tower represents an advanced understanding of weight and load characteristics, showing the Italian architectures' knowledge.
What the architect didn't account for however, was the base of the tower being built on a dense section of clay.
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In Italian the Leaning Tower of Pisa is Torre pendente di Pisa.
It was built as a freestanding bell tower for the cathedral in Pisa.
On the side where the tower is lower because of the lean it stands at 187.27 feet. On the high side of the tower it stands at 186 feet.
The tower weighs about 14,500 tons. That's a lot of weight for a building to have to support when it has been leaning since it was built.
There are approximately 294 steps on the north side and 296 steps on the south side of the tower.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa took 344 years to build, beginning in August 1173.
It began to lean in 1178 once construction on the second floor had begun. The lean was due to one side sinking into the soft ground.
The construction was stopped twice, the first time for 100 years, the second time in 1284. Both times it was due to wars.
If it hadn't been for the two pauses in construction it would have taken between 185 and 195 years to complete.
Inside the tower there are seven bells. Each bell represents one note of the musical major scale.
The first stones used to form the base of the Leaning Tower of Pisa were purchased with the money left to the Opera Campanilis petrarum Sancte Marie by Donna Berta di Bernardo in 1172.
Nobody seems to be able to pinpoint the identity of who the actual original architect really was.
During World War II, the Allies heard that Germans were using the Leaning Tower of Pisa as an observation post. Once the Allies saw how beautiful the tower was they refrained from destroying it.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. Also included in this designation were the cathedral, cemetery and the baptistery.
In 1989 another tower called the Civic Tower of Pavia collapsed. This sped up the restoration efforts for the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
The tower was closed to the public from 1989 until 2001, after the restoration was complete. It is thought that the restoration will keep the Leaning Tower of Pisa stable for at 300 years more.
In 2008 engineers stated that the Tower had stopped moving. This is the first time in its history that it has not been slowly leaning further to one side.
If the construction of the tower had not been halted the first time due to war it would have toppled over. The hundred years it had to sit helped to let it settle (compact).
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a circular shape and has eight floors. The 7 bells are located on the eighth floor.
Some people have suggested that the tower should be straightened. The people have Pisa had said they would rather see it fall over than be straightened. After all, how could you call it the Leaning Tower of Pisa if it didn't lean?
The Early Years
The construction of the Tower of Pisa began on August 9, 1173. Originally designed to be a bell tower, the tower actually stood upright for over 5 years, but just after the completion of the third floor (1178) it began to lean. The citizens of Italy were shocked as it began to lean ever so slightly.
The foundation of the tower, only 3 meter deep, was built on a dense clay mixture and impacted the soil. As it turned out, the clay was not nearly as strong enough as required to hold the tower upright, and so the weight of the tower began to diffuse downward until it had found the weakest point.
After this, construction halted for 100 years. The government hoped that the soil would settle, giving it enough strength to hold the weight of the tower. As well, the country was focused on its war with Genoa, which was quite brutal and ravaging at the time.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa at Night
The Tower at Night
After the 100 year hiatus, Giovanni di Simone stepped forward in 1272 and began to add four more floors to the tower. He actually managed to cause the tower to lean over more when he tried to compensate for the original lean by making one side of the upper floors taller than the other.
In 1284 construction was halted again, this time because of the Battle of Meloria, in which the Pisans were defeated by the Genoans.
In 1319 the 7th floor was finished. The bell-chamber was added in 1372, and then the tower was left alone until the 19th century.
In 1838 Alessandro Della Gherardesca, an established architect, dug a pathway near the base of the tower so that people could see the intricately crafted base. The tower began to lean even more as a result, likely due to the decreased amount of support available within the soil.
World War Two
This war was brutal and bloody for the entire world, and its effects were felt everywhere from America to rural Africa. In relation to the leaning tower of Pisa, however, it is pure luck.
When the American soldiers invaded, they were ordered to destroy any and all buildings in order to neutralize the thread of enemy snipers. There were no exceptions to this rule, and hundreds of buildings were blown up as the forces steadily advanced over the Italian countryside. The only thing which prevented the leaning tower of Pisa from being destroyed was a retreat that took place shortly after the arrival of the Americans, necessitating no need to destroy the national monument.
Steadier than Ever
The Pisa Tower with Leaden Counterweight
The leaden counterweight
In 1964, Italy asked help to prevent the Leaning Tower from toppling. They wanted to keep the lean though, because of its importance for Pisa's tourism. A team of engineers and historians came together on the Azores to discuss the problem. As a temporary measure, a leaden counterweight (800 tonnes) was installed.
In 1987, the Leaning Tower of Pisa was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site, along with the entire Piazza Del Duomo.
In 1990, the Leaning Tower was closed. The bells were removed and the tower was anchored.
Reopened in 2001 for tourists, the leaning tower of Pisa is finally sturdy and safe. Naturally, climbing to the top of the tower has become the most popular tourist activity within reason, and for good reason: with a history as deep and as wrought with unfortunate circumstance as this one, it's hard not to get excited about.
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