History Of The Leaning Tower of Pisa
The infamous tilt of the Torre Pendente di Pisa, or the Leaning Tower of Pisa, may be the result of a serious architectural miscalculation but this wonky building has become one of the most enduring landmarks in the world, alongside the likes of the Eiffel Tower and the Houses of Parliament. The ancient Tower is located in Pisa, a town in Tuscany that is home to a number of equally ancient buildings, including the 12th century University of Pisa and 20 historic churches. Its fascinating architecture has become a draw for the many tourists who come to marvel at its gravity-defying lean and to take photos creating the optical illusion of holding it upright with one finger.
A history of the Leaning Tower of Pisa must start with its construction, which got under way in the 1100s, when the building was begun with plans for it to be a bell tower for the local area. The Tower has not always had its distinctive lean and, for the first five years of its construction, it stood up straight as a die, just like all the others in the area. However, as soon as the third level had been added to the Tower, it began to develop its trademark tilt. As it turned out, the foundations of the tower were only three metres deep and had been built onto clay that was not nearly strong enough to ensure the tower remained upright. As a result, it began to lean and so towards the end of the 1100s, the construction of the Tower was brought to a complete stop to (hopefully) give it time to right itself.
When, 100 years later, the Leaning Tower of Pisa was still very much on a slant, architect Giovanni di Simone decided to continue adding to the construction, attempting to make up for the lean by adding floors that were taller on one side. Unfortunately he only managed to accentuate the Tower’s lean in doing this. By 1319 the Tower had its seventh floor and then towards the end of the 1300s the bell tower was added to the top. After this the Tower remained untouched for hundreds of years, until architect Alessandro Della Gherardesca decided to dig out some of the earth around the Tower in the 1800s to allow visitors to see the carvings on the base. The result? Even more of a lean!
During the 20th century the Tower narrowly avoided meeting the same fate as many other Italian buildings blown up by American forces during World War II but just escaped in time when military manoeuvres drew attention away from it. In 1964, after worries that the Tower’s lean might cause it to actually fall over, an international team of engineers attempted to stabilize the Tower by adding an 800 ton leaden counterweight. By 1987, the Tower was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site but was closed shortly afterwards because the lean had become too dangerous. After being anchored and finally stabilized, the Tower was reopened again in 2001 for tourists to climb. Nowadays, thanks to that miscalculation all those hundreds of years ago, the Tower remains one of the country’s foremost tourist attractions – the locals in Pisa will tell you if you haven’t climbed to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa then you haven’t really visited Italy!