The Leaning Tower of Pisa

The leaning tower of Pisa impresses with its history, the myths that surround it, its architecture and its appeal. The leaning tower of Pisa also plays an important role as an economic factor for not only the city of Pisa but the whole of Tuscany.

Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy

Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy

Its History

The leaning tower of Pisa as we see it today on the “Piazza dei Miracoli” was only built this way by coincidence. According to the original plans, the tower of Pisa was meant to be a unique Monument: At a hight of 100m, the tower was supposed to be a freestanding bell tower, called Campanile in italian, and was supposed to tower over all other bell towers in Central Italy.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the Leaning Tower of Pisa took place in August 1173.  The construction start date has been carved into the tower near the entrance to the tower of Pisa. However rather than August 1173 you will find the date August 1174 carved, because back then the new year began in March for the Pisans.

After just ten years and the first three floors completed the building works were discontinued. The substrate gave way on one side and the tower began to lean towards the southeast. Today we know that the Campanile was built on the edge of a former island. There probably was a harbour here in ancient times, which had already silted up long before the contruction work on the Tower of Pisa had started in the Middle Ages.

Almost 90 years later contruction on the tower of Pisa resumed. An attempt to compensate for the inclination, four more floors were constructed in 1272 with thin walls and sloping floors on the overhanging side. The construction stopped again until 1372 when the 7th and last floor of the Leaning Tower of Pisa was completed. That same year, the bell was finally installed with its 7 bells. However it was built in the opposing angle to the tower, so that the ascent to the belfry has 6 steps on the south side but only 4 steps on the north side.

Leaning Tower of Pisa, Tuscany

Leaning Tower of Pisa, Tuscany

From “failed” structure to a World Culture Heritage

This unique architectural history is the reason behind the world fame of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The misalignment also contributed to other legends that surround the tower. It is said that Galileo Galilei was inspired by the inclination to discover the laws of gravity and to verify it from the tower.

Since its completion there had been fears of the tower collapsing. In the Middle Ages, therefore, no one dared to ring the bells but still the leaning tower of Pisa always attracted visitors from all over the world. In 1987, the sloping structure and the and the “Piazza dei Miracoli” were awarded a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Unfortunately the Campanile had to be closed in 1990 for a duration of 11 years for renovations and rescue work. The site has been reopened again in 2001.

Every year thousands of tourists flock to the “Piazza dai Miracoli”. The total height of the Leaning Tower of Pisa is 55meters from the ground and it weighs around 14,5 tons. A spiral-shaped staircase about 1 meter wide leads to the belfry at the top of the tower and you will have to climb 296 steps to reach it. Each floor has an exit to the colonnade, each of which consists of 30 columns. Once you reach the top you get a wonderful view of the plain of Arno on the one side and on the other side you can see till the Parco die San Rossore. Entry to the tower will cost you €15.

The “Piazza dei Miracoli” with the cathedral and the leaning tower, however are not the only attractions in Pisa. For just €9 you can rent a bike and explore the whole city of Pisa. As Pisa was one of the 4 great maritime republics in the middle ages and it still retains a good selection of monuments from that era. The Arno River and the museums are well worth a visit. Thanks to all the green surrounding this region it’s a good city for strolling, relaxing and enjoying at a leisurely pace.

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