Italy - Tuscany - Pisa -

Pisa 2

LINKS to other pages in the Italy website and the Colin Day Travelling Days series:

Home Page
1 : Barga
2 : Pisa
3 : Lucca
4 : Portovénere
5 : Florence
6 : Siena
7 : Castelnuovo di Garfagnana
8 : Apuan Alps
9 : Guest Book:

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The Leaning Tower of Pisa (Italian: Torre pendente di Pisa) is the campanile, or freestanding bell tower, of the cathedral. It is situated behind the Cathedral. Although intended to stand vertically, the tower began leaning to the southeast soon after the onset of construction in 1173 due to a poorly laid foundation and loose substrate that had allowed the foundation to shift.

The height of the tower is 55.86 metres (183.27 ft) on the lowest side and 56.70 metres (186.02 ft) on the highest side. The width of the walls at the base is 4.09 metres (13.42 ft) and at the top 2.48 metres (8.14 ft). Its weight is estimated at 14,500 tonnes. The tower has 294 steps to the top.

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Construction was performed in three stages over a period of about 174 years. Building of the first floor began on August 9, 1173 during a period of military success and prosperity. This first floor is surrounded by pillars with classical capitals, leaning against blind arches.

Galileo Galilei is said to have dropped two cannon balls of different masses from the tower to demonstrate that their descending speed was independent of their mass. Many parts of the story, however, are widely considered to be merely legendary. While Galileo probably did climb to the top of the tower and drop two items to further prove his already-proven theory the items were probably not two cannonballs.

Benito Mussolini in the 1930s ordered that the tower be returned to a vertical position, so concrete was poured into its foundation. However, the result was that the tower actually sank further into the soil.

During World War II, the Allies discovered that the Nazis were using it as an observation post. 'A humble U.S. Army sergeant was briefly entrusted with the fate of the tower. His decision not to call in an artillery strike saved the edifice.'

On 27 February 1964 the government of Italy requested aid to prevent the tower from toppling. It was however considered important to retain the current tilt, due to the vital role that this element played in promoting the tourism industry of Pisa. A multinational task force of engineers, mathematicians and historians was formed and later met in the Azores to discuss stabilization methods. (right)

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After over two decades of deliberation on the subject, the tower was closed to the public in January 1990. While the tower was closed, the bells were removed to relieve some weight, and cables were cinched around the third level and anchored several hundred meters away. Apartments and houses in the path of the tower were vacated for safety.

After a further decade of corrective reconstruction and stabilization efforts, the tower was reopened to the public on December 15, 2001. It was found that the lean was increasing due to the stonework expanding and contracting each day due to the heat of sunlight. This was working in combination with the softer foundations on the lower side.

Many methods were proposed to stabilize the tower, including the addition of 800 metric tons of lead counterweights to the raised end of the base. The final solution to prevent the collapse of the tower was to slightly straighten the tower to a safer angle, by removing 38 m3 of soil from underneath the raised end. The tower has been declared stable for at least another 300 years.

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Tourist invasion - attempting to prevent the tower from completely collapsing (right) and homage to Michelangelo employing a significant part of his 'David' (below)

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'Tempus Fugit' (above) and we must away to Lucca!

A visit to Lucca starts on the next page.
Please click on the 'Next' button (lower right).

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