In an adorable town of Pisa in Italy, there stands world’s one of the most incredible monuments flaunting the glorious past worth hundreds of years & challenging all the laws of physics while stirring the imagination of everyone! This astonishing structure which was built as a simple bell tower or a campanile has now become Pisa’s proud possession & the glory for the nation. Regarded as one of the most visited places in the world, this tower called ‘ ‘The Leaning Tower of Pisa’ is considered as one of the tallest bell tower in Europe.
A Brief History
The construction of this incredible tower was started in the year 1174 AD under the vigilance of well-known architects of Pisa- Guglielmo & Bonanno Pisano. It took about 200 long years to get finished as the major time in its construction was hampered badly due to the long series of wars. Moreover, the notorious incident of tower’s sinking into the ground resulted in the abandonment of its further construction work. The tower was, thus left stranded for 90 years although its three floors were completely done. However, the temporary clock was installed on the third floor of this tower.
The fortune smiled once again in the year 1272 AD as the construction resumed once again under the vigilance of Giovanni di Simone, but sadly, was stopped once again in 1284 due to Pisans defeat against Genoans in the ‘Battle of Meloria’.
The construction resumed once again after a while & by the year 1319, ‘Tommaso di Andrea Pisano’ had successfully completed the seventh floor by blending it with the Gothic features of the bell-chamber with the Romanesque technique of the tower. The bell chamber structure was completed in 1372 AD. Out of the seven bells in the tower which were arranged as per the musical notation scale, the largest one was installed in the year 1655.
The Technical Facets
The great tower of Pisa (Torre di Pisa) is actually one of the four buildings that comprise the complex of the cathedral named as ‘Campo del Miracoli’ or ‘Piazza del Duomo’. The tower is the third oldest building in the Cathedral Square which was built after Cathedral & Baptistery. The fourth building- the cemetery called ‘Campo Santo’, however, was completed before the tower’s construction could get completed.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a seven stored cylindrical building that stands 183.7 feet or 55.86 meters tall from the lower side & 185.93 feet or 56.67 meters from the higher side. Tower weighs 14,500 metric tons. The top of the tower can be approached by climbing 294 or 296 steps of the spiral staircases built along the inner walls of the tower. The north facing staircase has two steps less on the seventh floor. The width of the walls at the base is 2.44 meters (8.06 feet). Currently, the tower is inclined at an angle of 3.99 degrees which was actually 5.5 degrees prior to the repairing work done between 1990 & 2001.
The campanile of Pisa is built in white marble & its ground floor is nicely ornamented using a series of big blind arcades which can be found replicated in the belfry. Top six floors are decorated using 30 arches each that surround the entire tower. The upper floors are built with one side taller than the other in order to compensate for the tower’s inclination. These corrective measures have given the tower a curved shape. The poorly laid, mere 3-meter deep foundation in unstable & softer subsoil is considered to be the prime reason behind the tower’s sinking from one side.
Despite of this major flaw in the designing, the campanile splendidly demonstrates the elegance of Romanesque style of architecture. The ‘Piazza del Duomo’ pleases the eye-sight as the whitish, tilted Tower of Pisa erects from the lush green lawn of the Cathedral’s vicinity!
In 1987, the tower was included in ‘UNESCO World Heritage Site’ list as a part of the ‘Piazza del Duomo’ that includes other buildings like Cathedral, Baptistery & the Cemetery.
Revamping Post Construction
Over the years, the tower kept its pace of sinking down & in 19th century, it was feared that the tower would fall over by the start of the 20th century. In order to prevent the masterpiece from tumbling, several corrective measures were taken for preventing further sinking. The Italian government took utmost precautions to conserve their glory.
- In 1964, Italian Government requested the multinational task force of mathematicians, engineers & geologists to implement some safety measures. Many methods were proposed by the task force & the tower was stabilized by adding 800 tons of lead to balance the higher part of the base.
- In 1990, remarkable work was done yet again to save the sinking tower. The officials closed it for public & the bells were removed to lose some weight. The tower was hauled to the opposite side of the tilt using cables which were anchored away at a long distance. Approximately 38 cubic meters of soil was unearthed from beneath the raised end in order to restore it to a safer angle, returning it to its position in 1838.
- In December 2001, the tower was reopened for public after repairing the minor visible sabotage such as blackening & corrosion caused due to the exposure to wind & rain.
- In May 2008, another 70 metric tons of soli was removed from the raised side. The engineers later, declared that the tower, for the first time right from its conception, has stopped from tilting & would remain stable for at least next 200 years!
During World War II, a U.S. Army sergeant was sent by the Allies to confirm the presence of German guards in the Cathedral’s vicinity. It was thought that German’s were using the campanile as a watch tower. However, the sergeant was hugely impressed by the mesmerizing beauty of the Cathedral complex & the campanile. The overwhelmed sergeant then readily abstained his artillery from striking down the site in order to conserve this medieval marvel!