The leaning tower of Pisa is one of Italy’s most popular sights. Its purpose was to be a bell tower within a cathedral complex, but its fate turned out to be quite different.
Here, Monica from Avventure Bellissime – the Italian tour specialists – shares her fascinating leaning tower of Pisa facts. It is a story that has it all – war, victory, defeat, adversity and triumph! Pisa itself, and its tower are definitely worth a visit.
Where is the leaning tower of Pisa?
The leaning tower of Pisa is located in the Italian city of Pisa in the north west of Italy.
1173 – Construction on the Bell Tower in Pisa’s Cathedral complex began
1178 – The tower begins to lean after construction of third floor.
1178 - Construction halted. The government hoped the soil would settle beneath it.
During this construction hiatus, the country was distracted by its bloody and brutal war with Genoa.
1272 – Almost 100 years later, construction begins again.
The tower leans further as the architect tried to compensate for the original lean by making one side of the top floors taller than the other.
1284 – Construction halted due to Battle of Meloria. The Pisans were defeated by the Genoans.
1319 – Seventh floor of the tower was completed.
1372 – Bell chamber was completed.
1838 – A pathway was dug around the base to allow people to see the intricatelycrafted base. But, thee tower began to lean even more as soil was removed from around its base.
What was the tower originally intended for?
The leaning tower of Pisa was originally intended to be a bell tower for a church. Pisa was a city that was growing in importance. And in the 12th Century, one of the ways Pisans wanted to demonstrate this was to build a cathedral complex. It was to be called ‘the field of miracles’ and what is now known as ‘the leaning tower of Pisa’ was to be the complex’s bell tower.
Why does the leaning tower of Pisa lean?
The town of Pisa got its name around 600 BC from the Greek work meaning ‘marshy land’, so perhaps it is not surprising that the leaning tower of Pisa leans.
In fact, there are other towers in Pisa that also lean and these can be found at the Church of Michele dei Scalzi and Church St. Nicola.
The reason the leaning tower of Pisa leans is due to the soft ground it was built upon. The shifting soil destabilised the foundations for the tower. In fact, when it began to lean in 1178, it was actually falling at a rate of 2mm per year.
Stabilising the tower and keeping the lean
In 1964, Italy asked for assistance to stabilise the tower, but keep the lean. A group of experts agreed the best approach was to add an 800 tonne counterweight to the tower. Then in 1990 tower was closed to remove the bells and anchor the structure. It reopened eleven years later in 2001 and is potentially at its sturdiest today.
Climb it for yourself!
It is a story steeped in history and nothing beats seeing the tower for yourself.
The team at Avventure Bellissime are experts in Italian tours and holidays and with their help you’ll be able to build the perfect holidays to Italy. They offer everything from Italian vacation packages to private one-day tours. Visit italy-tours.com for more information.