05/Aug/2015

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Art Most popular Tuscany

Fun facts about one of the most famous buildings in the world

What is the Leaning Tower of Pisa and why is it so famous ?

When you think of Pisa, it's impossible not to think of the leaning tower: the free standing Bell Tower of Pisa Cathedral. Dubbed by Italians as "Torre Pendente di Pisa", this world renowned piece of architecture is a symbol of national pride, with locals and tourists alike flocking to marvel at its seemingly impossible structure. A building that defies gravity, the tower is admired around the world for its intricate design and structure that has truly stood the test of time. 

Whilst many of our first thoughts when meeting the tower for the first time is to perfect the ultimate "Pisa Pusher photo", look a bit further beyond the surface and you'll find a history that is as rich and exciting as the visually complex tower itself. 

 

Where is the leaning tower ?

The tower sits in Pisa, a small town in Tuscany about an hour's drive outside of Florence in Central Italy. It's a quaint town on the banks on the Arno river, famed for its stunning architecture and awe-inspiring Cathedral and Baptistery (and, of course, its leaning tower!). Pisa is often mispelled Piza or even Pizza!

 

How long did the tower take to build?

Whilst the exact time span of construction is debated, it is generally agreed that the tower took an estimated 200 years to build, beginning in 1173. During that time it faced two great wars, a civil war and a total change in religious government. In fact, construction was put on hold twice due to war and it was almost destroyed in WW2. It really has faced the test of time! Since its official "completion", it has seen countless additions and modifications made over 800 years to get it to its state we find today.

 

How much does the leaning tower weigh?

A grand 14,500 tonnes! It was built in a clay foundation, only 3 metres deep. Unsurprisingly, this dense mixture was not enough to hold its intense weight! For the first five years after creation, it remained upright and no one knew of any issue. However, as a third floor began to be constructed, sure enough the tower started to tilt, opening it up to centuries of "quick fixes"... but (luckily for us) never an absolute cure!

 

How tall is the leaning tower ?

The tower is 55.86 metres tall, making it the smallest "tower" to achieve world wide attention and recognition! Although, it was 60 metres when originally made... it now tilts 5metres off the perpendicular!

 

Did they ever try to fix it ?

The tower has seen many architects attempting to "fix" the problem. But none prevailed! It is believed that Bonnano Pisano and Gherardo di Gherardo worked through the first phase of the tower, whilst Giovanni Pisano and Giovanno di Simone worked on the second. Throughout this time, several new floors were added so it now boasts eight stories, including a chamber for bells (seven in total, each representing a note of the major music scale)! You'll also notice that the tower is slightly curved; the result of the various architects trying to stop it from leaning more... or even worse, falling over!

Mussolini tried to "fix" it too! Contrary to how the city sees it now, Mussolini saw the tower as a "disgrace to national pride." He had a cement counterweight drilled into the base with the hopes of straightening it up. Well, we all know how much that worked...

 

Is it still moving ?

In 2008, the Tower stopped moving for the first time!  Engineers believe this is when the tower stopped tilting. It is expected that it will remain stable for the next 200 years, and if (by then) intervention is once again needed, technology will allow for it to be secured for at least another 800 years. Great news for the people of Pisa!

 

You can buy your tickets online (and avoid the queues) to climb the tower at: http://boxoffice.opapisa.it/Turisti/.

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