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Leaning Tower of Pisa

Photo © M4rvin. View all images in our Leaning Tower of Pisa Photo Gallery.
Photo © Calum Davidson.
Photo © Irma.
Photo © Lluís.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa (Torre Pendente di Pisa in Italian) is one of the great icons of Europe. Begun in 1173, the bell tower of Pisa Cathedral is famous for the shifting of its sandy foundations that has led to a significant lean of 5.5 degrees.

History

The campanile was begun in 1173 as the final structure of the magnificent cathedral complex on the Campo dei Miracoli in Pisa. The settling of its foundations and resulting lean became apparent before it was even finished - after only three stories were completed. The engineer, belived to be Bonnano Pisano, tried to compensate by making the new stories a little taller on one side. However, the extra materials caused the tower to sink even more.

Work was suspended several times as engineers worked to find a solution, but the tower was still leaning when it was completed in 1350. The architectural design remained unchanged throughout, as later builders stayed faithful to the original Romanesque designs.

Over the years various attempts have made to straighten the tower, including the injection of cement into the foundations and various types of bracing, but in the late 20th century the structure was still subsiding at the rate of 0.05 inches (1.2 mm) per year and in serious danger of collapse.

In 1990, the Leaning Tower was closed and the bells were silenced as engineers undertook a major straightening project. The main technique was to siphon more than 70 tons of earth from underneath the foundations while supporting the tower with steel cables and lead weights. The work was completed in May 2001 and has decreased the lean by 17 inches (44 cm) to 13.5 feet (4.1 metres).

What to See

Made of gleaming white and pastel marbles, the Leaning Tower has a diameter of 52 feet (16 m) at the base and would stand 185 feet (56 metres) high if it were straight. It currently leans 5.5 degrees, which amounts to about 15 feet or 4.5 metres from vertical.

The famous lean of the bell tower often overshadows its magnificent architecture, which is an exceptional example of the Romanesque style. The round tower is made of fine multicolored marble and has eight stories in all, each surrounded by an arcaded gallery. The repeating registers of arches give the tower an exceptionally harmonious and rhythmic appearance.

The bottom register of the tower has a blind arcade and an ornately carved portal, which features grotesque sculptures of animals. The second through seventh stories have open arcaded galleries and the eighth story houses the bell chamber. The medieval bells remain in place, but for stability reasons are no longer rung.

Inside the tower is a 294-step spiral staircase leading to the bell chamber. Happily visitors are once again allowed to climb the tower in small groups, which provides not only a close look at the iconic tower but a fine view of the Piazza del Duomo.


Quick Facts on the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Site Information
Names:Leaning Tower of Pisa; Torre di Pisa; Torre Pendente di Pisa
City:Pisa
State:Tuscany
Country:Italy
Categories:Monuments
Faiths:Christianity; Catholic
Styles:Romanesque
Dates:1173-1350
Status:monument
Visitor and Contact Information
Location:Pisa, Italy
Coordinates:43.722957° N, 10.396623° E  (view on Google Maps)
Website:torre.duomo.pisa.it
Lodging:View hotels near this location
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

Map of the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Below is a location map and aerial view of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.

References

  1. Personal visit (May 2, 2008).
  2. La Torre di Pisa - official website
  3. Leaning Tower of Pisa - Encyclopaedia Britannica
  4. Fall of the Leaning Tower - NOVA Online
  5. "Leaning Tower of Pisa is saved from collapse" - Daily Telegraph, June 28, 2007.
  6. "Leaning Tower of Pisa" - Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia

More Information

Article Info

Title:Leaning Tower of Pisa
Author:Holly Hayes
Last updated:06/15/2010
Permalink:www.sacred-destinations.com/italy/pisa-leaning-tower
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