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Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Leaning Power of Pisa was originally designed to stand straight.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a tourist's attraction. [©Jupiter Images, 2010]
©Jupiter Images, 2010
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a tourist's attraction.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of the world's most recognizable and unusual buildings. It is the bell tower of the Cathedral of Pisa, and is open to tourists. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is known for its architectural peculiarity -- it tilts to one side, according to the official website of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The Leaning Tower of Pisa stands with several other historic buildings in the Piazza Dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles), a walled-in area in Pisa, Italy. Recent renovations have halted the tower's growing tilt, which had raised concerns of an imminent collapse.

History of the Leaning Tower of Pisa

No one knows the name of the architect who designed the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but historians do know that the building was designed to stand straight. Construction began on the building in 1173, but was halted after five years when workers noticed a significant tilt to the north. Only three stories of the tower had been erected at this time, so when work resumed, architects tried to fix the lean. By 1272, however, the tower began leaning toward the south. Before they finished construction, architects again attempted to correct the lean by adding more steps on one side than on the other, which makes the building look like a banana when viewed from the side. With two long interruptions, it took 200 years to complete the construction of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. According to the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), the tilt was caused by silty alluvial soil that created a soft foundation.

Tower Renovations

Many attempts have been made throughout history to right the tower, and various construction devices were used during the building process, but they didn't fix the problem.

In 1838, one of the marble walls was partially replaced. In 1902, after the bell tower at St. Marks Cathedral in Venice collapsed, experts examined the Leaning Tower of Pisa to prevent a similar collapse. The dictator Benito Mussolini tried to right the Leaning Tower of Pisa by pouring cement into its base, which made the lean worse. In 1950, officials stopped ringing the bells because they worried the vibrations would harm the building.

In 1990, the Italian government named an international committee to develop a plan to protect and preserve the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The tower was shifting 1.2 millimeters per year, so 700-ton lead ingots were applied as counterweights. This renovation also involved removing 70 tons of earth from around the tower. The work was successful -- it caused the tower to right itself by 19 inches.

By 2008, engineers reported that the efforts had paid off. The tower had stopped moving and would likely last for at least 200 more years, according to the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Other Monuments at the Site

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is just one of several monuments in the Piazza. The others are:

  • Cathedral of Pisa. The cathedral dates to 1064, and it contains a mixture of Roman, Byzantine and Moorish architectural styles.
  • The Baptistery. This building dates to 1152 and is the size of the Cathedral. In ancient times, non-baptized people could not enter the Cathedral.
  • The Camposanto. This enclosed cemetery dates to 1275. The rectangular building was supposed to be the size of Noah's Ark and may contain soil brought by crusaders.
  • The Museum of the Cathedral Vestry Board. This museum contains many objects that used to be on the monuments. Among the artifacts are wooden crucifixes, sculptures and frescoes.


Visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Those wishing to visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa can purchase tickets at the site or online at least 15 days in advance. Purchasing tickets in advance is recommended, especially in the summer when tickets often sell out.

People visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa in groups with a guide who gives them an itinerary to follow. A visit lasts 30 minutes and visitors can't stay longer than this. Children under the age of 8 are not allowed and teenagers between 12 and 18 years of age must be accompanied by an adult.

Those considering visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa should be aware that they will have to climb a spiral staircase with 300 steps, and these steps are sometimes slippery. Those who have trouble walking or other ailments preventing them from doing so are advised not to attempt a visit.

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