Sunday 24 March 2013

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Photo courtesy

Pisa, from the Greek for marshy, was a vital seaport and a busy trade centre during the Middle Ages.

In an attempt to show how important their city was, Pisans decided to build a bell tower, a cathedral, a baptistery and a cemetery in 1173.  Wars, debt and engineering problems all interfered with their plans.  After over 200 years, their bell tower was complete.

Looking like a giant wedding cake, the Leaning Tower of Pisa was a white marble tower composed of 8 stories.  The bottom story has 25 arches, the six middle stories have 30 arches and the top story has 16 arches.  The tower was supposed to be 60 metres in height.  While the tower is only a third the height of the Washington Monument, it was considered an engineering marvel during Medieval Times.

As construction progressed, three stories were completed but then a war got in the way.  In the meantime, the sand and clay underneath shifted and the tower leaned.  Then more stories were completed and more shifting resulted.  In the end the tower leaned at least 10 degrees.

In the 1920's, cement grouting was injected into the foundation to stabilize the structure.  Adjustments were made later in the century to reduce the leaning which now sits at about 4 degrees.

A city that once hosted pioneers on their way to Jerusalem now hosts tourists on their way to see its famous bell tower.  Guests are welcome to climb the 297 steps to the peak where they are treated to a breathtaking view of Tuscany, Italy.

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