The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of the most popular tourist spot of Italy. It is located in the seaside town of Pisa in the district of Tuscany. Pisa is a city in Central Italy on the banks of the river Arno on the Tyrrhenian Sea. It has about 20 other historic and popular churches. The Leaning Tower is one of the marvellous architectural structures in the city’s Square of Miracles known as Piazza dei Miracoli besides the Duomo (Cathedral), Baptistry and the Campo Santo. It is the third oldest building of Pisa. Its popularity is due to its leaning structure which has become a cause of wonder and attraction all around the world. It is a seven storey building. People can climb through its slanting stairs and enjoy the view of the city from an inclined direction from the top of the building. The tower is affiliated to Roman Catholic Church. It is a bell tower which has become the icon of Italy.
The Tower was not initially intended to incline but it did, in due course of time during its construction. The reason behind its inclination is its faulty base. The Tower is built on soft soil thus it kept on tilting towards one side. It finally became stable in the 20th century due to efforts of engineers, architects and mathematicians. The construction of The Tower was done in three phases. The construction of the building had to be stopped many times due to civil wars and various battles that caused a state of turmoil in the country.
The construction of the Tower began in 1173. The ground floor was built of blind arcade with no windows. It was a time of military success and prosperity for the province of Pisa. By the time the construction reached the second floor, it was noticed that the building is sinking to one side and is not vertical indeed due to its foundation of loose soil, mud and clay. Thus the structure became inclined because its base couldn’t withstand its weight and was further sinking in the ground. The Tower leaned to the north side from its initial position. Thus, the construction of The Tower was imperfect right from the beginning and the inclination was not planned. The construction was stopped in 1178 for almost a century due to battles and military interventions. During that interval, the soil got a chance to settle such that the structure could become stable or else it would certainly have collapsed if the construction had been continued.
In 1198, clocks were temporarily installed in the uncompleted third floor of the building. In 1272, the construction of the Tower was resumed but the Tower was still not done inclining. The process of its inclination continued and this time in the south direction. The structure was under the supervision of the architect named Giovanni Di Simone. His other works include “The Campo Santo”, built in the Square of Miracles. Efforts were made to rectify the inclined structure of the Tower by making the sinking side taller than the other side at the 5th floor. But the workers didn’t get a chance to complete their work and had to be halted in between, in the year 1284. This was the time when Pisa was defeated by Genoaus in the battle of Meloria.
The third time, the work was resumed in 1319 and the structure was completed till its 8th floor. A sharp rate of inclination in the Tower was found in the early 14th century. A bell chamber consisting of seven bells was installed in the building with each bell representing each note of the musical major scale. This time the work was under the supervision of the architect named Tommaso Di Andrea Pisano. The heaviest bell of the bell chamber was the 1st bell installed in1654 which weighs 3620 kg and the lightest bell was installed in 1473 which was the 4th bell and weighs 300 kg. The Tower is a classic blend of the Romanesque style of architecture with the Gothic style of the bell chamber.
It was found in the early 20th century that the tower is sinking further and its top is moving at about 0.05 inches a year. Many measures were taken to stabilize the incline of the Tower but all failed and by 1935 the Tower had tilted to about 5.5 degrees. The officials became so worried that the Tower was closed for the general public to enter for almost a decade. Finally the team of architects decided to work on the plan again to save the tower from collapsing. They decided to extract soil from its northern side so that they could pull the tower to vertical position. The method did work to some extend but the Tower is still not completely safe. Even a slightest earthquake in the region could bring the Tower to grounds. But despite all these factors, the officials had declared the building to be safe for another 200 years.
There had been a lot of confusion and debate on the real builder of the monument. One possible builder could be Gerardo Di Gerardo. Another possible candidate is Diotisalvi but he always signs his works and there is no signature of him in the bell tower. Giovanni Di Simone had also been involved in completing the construction of the building.
The Leaning Tower is about 183.3 ft. It has 296 steps which goes spiral in the inside of the Tower. It now leans at about 3.99 degrees. Despite its structural faults, it does not lack beauty and elegance. It had been declared as the UNESCO world heritage in 1987. Many people believe that it might fall one day but despite all odds and challenges it had stood there for about 840 years. It is a beautiful site to visit in a beautiful city.