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The Leaning Tower of Pisa: In Photos

Piza, Italy

sunny 82 °F


A brief stop in Pisa, Italy…

I make an unplanned stop in Pisa, Italy. My create-it-as-I-go itinerary did not include Pisa, yet a stop there would avoid an arrival in Vernazzo (Cinque Terre) late at night. And by staying the night in Pisa, I could have an early arrival in Vernazzo. So, seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa was inevitable!

Unfortunately, after seeing the tower and a glimpse of the town, I wish that I had been able to stay just a little longer. Why? Because on my walk back to my hotel, it seemed to be an attractive town with interesting features. But, I barely even had time to see the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa before it became dark. My roundabout walk back to the hotel was pretty much in the dark, thus I have few photos.

Seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa…

After finding a hotel and unloading my backpack, I went straight to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It is a big surprise to see a big field of grass with people wandering around (not many, because it is late in the day). All the pictures I have seen show only the tower.

The tower is a freestanding bell tower, but it is not alone. Three white marble structures stand in the large open grassy area called Piazza dei Miracoli (or Piazza del Duomo). The other buildings are the Pisa Cathedral and the Pisa Baptistry. The Leaning Tower of Pisa (but it was not leaning at that time!) was built after the cathedral and baptistry. Nearby, there is also the Camposanto Monumentale, a cementary.

The tower, as usual, was undergoing repairs. Therefore, no one could climb up the 269 steps to the top. Similarly, I did not enter the other buildings because I had arrived so late in the day that visiting hours were over. Soon after my visit to the Piazza dei Miracoli it was dark, so these are my only pictures.
It was leaning…
…so I fixed it!

The Baptistry of Pisa.

The Cathedral of Pisa.

A closer look at the cathedral.

The cathedral had some lovely decoration.

The baptistry and cathedral were next to each other.

The marble walkway around the cathedral had artistic water drains.

At the base of the tower: workers on the never-ending project to clean and stabilize the tower.

Some details on the tower.

The three buildings in a cluster.

Across the grass piazza, a row of souvenir stalls.

So, why does the Tower of Pisa lean?

The answer to why this originally unexceptional bell tower (campanile) leans is very simple: the soft ground cannot support the structure’s weight. As a result, it started leaning during the construction in the 12 century (construction started in 1173) and became worse throughout construction until its completion two centuries later in 1372.

Will it ever fall?

The answer can only be ‘hopefully not”. The tower has never actually fallen for two reasons. The first is that its center of gravity is within its base. The second relates to the first, the gravity is kept within its base due to years of engineering and constant repairs with a team of engineers that monitor the incline. Thus, despite its lack of ground support and a mass of 14,500 metric tons, it has survived in its leaning mode for over 800 years through earthquakes and storms and even war. In fact, a war between Pisa and Genoa delayed construction for ten years and thus may have aided the problem by allowing the soft alluvial ground to settle more.

Only in 1990 did the inclination become critical at 5%. Thirty million euros were invested in straightening efforts. It was never fully straightened (all that money only made a 1.5% correction), but the inclination was decreased, so that its center of gravity was more secure. It also helps that the early engineers modified the tower design to the shape of a banana.

Interesting note: As of 2013, the tower is straightening– or at least moving backwards which decreases the inclination.

Why was the tower built?

The tower is part of a white marble complex (tower, cathedral and baptistry) built on the Square of Miracles to showcase the power of Pisa. At that time, Pisa was one of four Italia republics ruling over the Mediteranean Sea with sailing and trading industries (which included lots of piracy and looting).

The tower was a common additon to a Catholic church, or in this case a cathedral. The top of the tower houses seven bells which weigh 10 metric tons. Swinging the bells with a rope was viewed as adding to the leaning problem, so the ropes were replaced with electromagnent hammers.

If you go there, you may be lucky enough to climb the 269 stairs (eight floors) to the top for the reward of a tremendous view. Alas, I was unlucky. During my brief visit in 2004, it was closed. I believe they were cleaning the intricately carved marble facade.

So, it’s only famous because it leans?

Well, besides its engineering history, there is one more thing. In 1600, the experiments on gravity by Galileo Galilei became famous when he used the Leaning Tower of Pisa to demonstrate that the mass or weight of an object had no influence on the speed when falling to the ground.

If you want more interesting details and comprehensive information on everything related to the Leaning Tower of Pisa (facts! history! tours!) check out this site...

Posted by jaytravels 01:45 Archived in Italy Tagged pisa_italy

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