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The Leaning Tower of Pisa (Torre Pendente di Pisa)

History of the Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of the greatest architectural attractions in the entire world. A marvel of Medieval Gothic Architecture, it was done in white marble like the other buildings in the Piazza, and the entire ensemble is giving you an almost surreal feeling.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa and The Duomo

The Pisa Tower famous deviation from the vertical is the result of an engineering error, the setting of a three meters foundation in the soft ground of a former estuary, mainly clay and sand. It seems that a slight leaning could already be noticed in the fifth year of construction.

The construction of the Tower of Pisa as the Bell Tower (Campanile) of the Cathedral, began in 1173, and continued for almost two hundreds years, being finished in 1350. It has a height of approximately 56 meters.

The architect of the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Who was the architect of the Tower of Pisa? This question caused much controversy. Vasari in his “Lives of the Artists” (Le Vite) is naming Bonnano Pisano as the architect who started the construction.

The recent studies of Professor Piero Pierotti from the University of Pisa, a recognized authority on the Leaning Tower of Pisa history, have credited Deotisalvi as the architect. Deotisalvi was also the architect of the Campanile of San Nicola in Pisa and the Pisa Baptistery in Piazza dei Miracoli.

The legend also links the Tower to the great Galileo Galilei, who was born in Pisa. It is said that Galileo, who was teaching at the University, had dropped two cannonballs of different masses from the tower, and demonstrated that objects fall with the same acceleration, independent of their masses.

This may be just one legend more being associated with the famous Pisa Tower. There is no mention of this episode in Galileo's works, and it is agreed that the Tower experiment did not actually take place. However, it is certain that Galileo did perform many other experiments on gravity while in Pisa.

In 1990 the Tower was closed for safety reasons. At that time, it was nearly 15 feet off vertical. In 2007, a 30 million dollars project has straightened the Pisa Tower by 18 inches, returning it to the position it had in 1838. The work involved the excavation of about 70 tonnes of earth from the northern side of the construction, causing it to sink on that side. Before starting digging, the project workers anchored the Tower using about 600 tonnes of lead weights and steel cables.

Once you passed the Leaning Tower of Pisa, on the northern edge of the Piazza is The Camposanto Monumentale, or the Monumental Cemetery. Its construction began in 1278, and in the 14th and the 15th Centuries the walls were decorated with frescoes by famous artists, one of them being Benozzo Gozzoli. Unfortunately, most of the frescoes were destroyed by a bombardment during WWII. Still, the Camposanto has been fully restored, and most of the surviving frescoes have been moved to the Museo delle Sinopie.

Beyond The Leaning Tower of Pisa: Piazza dei Miracoli

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