Learn About the Rich History of Leaning Tower of Pisa | Construction, Tilt, Facts & More
The Torre Pendente or the Leaning Tower of Pisa, one of Italy's most famous attractions, certainly lives up to its name, leaning a remarkable 3.9 degrees off the vertical. The 58-meter-high bell tower of the Duomo took nearly 200 years to complete, but it was already falling apart when it was presented in 1372. The tilt, which was caused by a layer of weak subsoil, slowly worsened over time until it was finally stopped in the 1990s by a huge stabilization effort.
What is the Leaning Tower of Pisa?
Why Was the Leaning Tower of Pisa Built?
Bells in the Leaning Tower of Pisa
There are 7 bells placed at the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, each bell tuned to a specific note on the musical scale. Going clockwise;
- 1st bell - L'Assunta: Made in 1654 by Giovanni Pietro Orlandi; weight 3,620 kg
- 2nd bell - Il Crocifisso: Made in 1572 by Vincenzo Possenti; weight 2,462 kg
- 3rd bell - San Ranieri: Made in 1719–1721 by Giovanni Andrea Moreni; weight 1,448 kg
- 4th bell - La Terza: 1st small one, made in 1473, weight 300 kg
- 5th bell - La Pasquereccia or La Giustizia: Made in 1262 by Lotteringo; weight 1,014 kg
- 6th bell - Il Vespruccio: 2nd small one, made in 1501 by Nicola di Jacopo; weight 1,000 kg
- 7th bell - Dal Pozzo: Made in again in 2004; weight 652 kg
The bells were initially rung using ropes where the bells were made to swing. This was later forbidden as the swaying of the bells could add to the vibration of the tower, which could further worsen the tilt or even trigger the collapse of the tower.
The History of the Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Beginning of the Construction of the Leaning Tower of Pisa
The bell tower’s construction began in 1173 as the third and last part of the city's cathedral complex. Although it is not known who the original architect of the tower was, the project was started under the direction of architect Bonanno Pisano.
When Did the Tilting Start?
Because of the soft ground beneath the building's foundations, the tower started to tilt soon after the beginning of the construction. While the tower was meant to be perfectly straight, the soil couldn’t bear the weight of solid white marble and started to sink.
Halting the Construction
By the time they built three of its eight floors, the tilt had worsened so much that they had to halt the construction in 1178 in order to find a solution. Meanwhile, a war broke out between Pisa and the nearby city-state, Genova and the construction was halted for about 100 years.
Resuming Construction of the Leaning Tower of Pisa
When they began after a gap of a century, the soil underneath the structure was in better condition. In 1260, Giovanni di Simone took charge of the second phase of the building. He began to find ways to correct the tilt. The construction was finally completed in 1372.
In 1838, Alessandro della Gerardesca tried to increase the value of the tower by exposing its beautifully carved base. While this allowed us to learn more about the architecture of the tower, this only worsened the tilt further.
Mussolini’s Attempts to Correct the Tilt
The Italian dictator Mussolini argued that the Leaning Tower was an embarrassment and its inclination should be corrected. He got some people to drill holes around the tower and pour concrete into them, which again didn’t help with the tilt and only worsened it further.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa in World War II
World War II wreaked havoc all around the globe. The Leaning Tower of Pisa, on the other hand, was quite fortunate. Shortly after the American forces entered Pisa to destroy all buildings, a retreat was announced. Most of the buildings in Italy were leveled, but the Leaning Tower of Pisa survived.
Survival Through Earthquakes
Since 1280, at least four severe earthquakes have struck the region, but the ostensibly susceptible Tower of Pisa has persevered. It was found that the unique character of the soil underneath the structure means that it does not resonate with earthquake ground motion. The same loose soil that caused the Tower's tilting and nearly knocked it down helped it survive.
Italy’s Request for Aid
On February 27, 1964, the Italian government stated that it was inviting recommendations for preventing the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa from collapsing. Experts warned that the ancient structure, which is one of Italy's most popular tourist attractions, was in grave danger of collapsing in the event of an earthquake or storm. Proposals to save the Leaning Tower arrived in Pisa from all over the world, but successful restoration work did not begin until 1990.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa Today
All Your Questions About the History of the Leaning Tower of Pisa Answered
A. The construction of the Leaning Tower of Pisa began in 1173.
A. The construction of the Leaning Tower of Pisa was completed in 1372.
A. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is most significant for its unique lean towards its south.
A. The most prominent architect of the Leaning Tower of Pisa is Bonanno Pisano.
A. The Leaning Tower of Pisa currently tilts at 3.99 degrees.
A. While the Leaning Tower of Pisa still retains some tilt, it stopped tilting any further than 3.99 degrees in 1990 when the last restabilization work began.
A. Yes, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is currently stable and scientists believe that the current stabilization will hold for another 300 years.
A. The Leaning Tower of Pisa has 251 steps inside it.
A. The Leaning Tower of Pisa was opened for tourists after restabilization on December 15, 2001.