Leaning Tower of Pisa

Facts about Leaning Tower of Pisa

We found 20 facts about Leaning Tower of Pisa

An architectural marvel

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of the most attractive European monuments. It is known worldwide and is visited by thousands of tourists every year.

It was built as part of the complex of the Cathedral Church of Santa Maria Assunta, seen as the "eye in the head of the Pisans," a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture.

Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a cathedral bell tower that is part of a complex of buildings in the Piazza del Duomo in Pisa.
The building complex consists, besides the bell tower (campanile), of:

  • Duomo - Santa Maria Assunta
  • the Baptistery of San Giovanni
  • the cemetery Camposanto Monumentale.

The tower, the Baptistery and the Cathedral are located in a large square covered with green grass called Piazza dei Miracoli - the Miracle Square.

The entire historical complex, consisting of four masterpieces of medieval architecture, was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1987.
In 1063, Buscheto Pisano began constructing the cathedral - the first of the four buildings that form the city's architectural center. These buildings were built according to the best interpretation of Pisan Romanism. 

The Pisan Romanesque style was created by combining Eastern architectural and decorative elements with Western architectural elements (pointed arcades, decoration with white and black stripes, pilasters and rhombuses ), which brought a taste of the journey to the East on Pisan Romanesque.
Construction of the Leaning Tower began in 1173 and was completed two centuries later.
Although the Latin inscription to the right of the entrance to the tower gives the date 1174, this refers to the Pisan calendar, which is one year longer than the Gregorian calendar.
The designers of the Leaning Tower are believed to be the architects: Bonanno and Guglielmo Pisano.
It is built of white marble, has eight floors. Its weight is estimated at 14 thousand tons.
Soon after construction began, it became apparent that the tower leans to the south.
In the planning, the architects did not take into account that the terrain on which it was built was muddy and very unstable.
The first floor was probably completed just a few months after construction began.
In its lowest part, there are wall columns with classical capitals and arches between them, decorated with concave rhombuses.
In 1185, when three stories of the tower had already been built, it was observed that it began to tilt.
A similar fate befell many of Pisa's structures at this time.
The architects tried to save the situation and changed the plans during construction, extending the columns on one side.
However, this did not make the situation any better. Construction was halted at this stage, but in 1198 some bells were temporarily placed on the tower.
In the first half of the 13th century, the severe troubles in which the city was involved prevented the building's completion.
Pisa was then at war with Genoa, Florence and Lucca to defend the Republic's independence.
The building works were not resumed until 1275.
They were directed by Giovanni di Simone, the builder of the church of St. Francis and the Camposanto Monumentale (in this cemetery, the young Franz Liszt found inspiration for his immortal concerto "Totentanz").

He took over the construction of the tower from Bonanno Pisano.

Pisano, after his death, was buried at the foot of the Leaning Tower in a sarcophagus discovered in 1820.
In 1284 the building work was again interrupted.
At that time, Pisa suffered a humiliating defeat in a naval battle with Genoa.
The tower's construction was resumed in 1319 and extended to the belfry.
It was added around 1350 by Tommaso Pisano. He combined the Gothic elements of the pediment with the Romanesque decoration of the building's main part.
The enclosing walls at the base of the tower are 4.09 m long, while the top is 2.48 m long. The staircase inside the bell tower has 251 steps.
The campanile reaches a height of 56,705 m and its deviation from the vertical increases by one millimeter per year.
In 1990, Leaning Tower was closed to the public.
In the 19th century, measures were taken to stop the tower's further tilting. However, they did not have the desired effect; the danger was so great that in the early 20th century, the bell tower was closed permanently. A special committee was formed to decide how best to prevent the tower's further tilting.
The restoration work took twenty years and in April 2011, the tower was opened to the public.
The restoration work was carried out by a team of experts led by Michele Jemiolkowski, professor of geotechnics at the Polytechnic University of Turin. They applied the method of reinforcing the foundation and preventing further tilting. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is guaranteed by the scientists to last for at least 300 years.
The city of Pisa and its Leaning Tower are sometimes called the city of Aries Constellation - La citta dell'ariete.
This nickname dates from ancient times, when the year in Pisa's religious calendar began on March 25 (the day of the Annunciation), rather than nine months later, as in the Gregorian calendar on Christmas Day. March 25 falls in the month of Aries, and the arrangement of all the buildings in Piazza dei Miracoli (Cathedral, Baptistery, and Campanile) resembles the constellation of Aries in shape.
The story goes that Galileo used took advantage of the tilt of the tower in 1600 to conduct a scientific experiment regarding the free fall of bodies.
Galileo dropped spheres of different masses from the Leaning Tower and measured their fall time. At the same time, he dropped two balls from the tower: a heavy cannonball with a mass of 8 kg and a lighter musket ball with a mass of 20 g. Both bodies (they had a similar shape) reached the ground at the same moment. He proved that the time of their fall was the same. This proof is one of the foundations of classical mechanics.

However, this event is questioned by some scholars and historians, although no one doubts that Galileo used balls rolling down an incline to study their speed and acceleration.
In 1950, Louis Nichilo designed a gold lipstick container in the Leaning Tower's shape.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is the most typical Italian campanile, whose origin many scholars associate with Islamic building influences.
Just as the muezzins from the tops of minarets call the faithful to prayer, the sound of bells from the top of the tower calls Christians to their temples. Other historians claim that it was the adapted towers of Christian churches in Syria that were the first minarets.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is known throughout the world, and for Italians, who hold it particularly dear, it is one of the country's symbols.
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