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Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Leaning Tower of Pisa has History

By Rocky Wilson
Author of Sharene:
Death: A Prerequisite For Life

The Leaning Tower of Pisa has History

With its construction begun more than 800 years ago, in 1173, the Leaning Tower of Pisa has a long history accented by the fact the 185-foot-high bell tower constructed to complement the Italian city’s beautiful marble cathedral primarily was built to flaunt the city’s wealth.

Located along the Arno River near the Tyrrhenian Sea, in north central Italy, Pisa became a maritime power from 900 A.D. until 1284 A.D., obtaining some of its wealth from trading privileges secured in the eastern Mediterranean during the Crusades.

Hence, construction of the tower was begun as a showcase of wealth; yet within ten years, when it was learned sinking soil beneath the then three-story, 35-foot-high structure was causing a severe inclination toward the north, construction was halted. Ninety years later, construction was resumed with the structure’s design intentionally being bent to the south in an attempt to correct the unplanned inclination. In about 1350, the bell tower was added.

Until 2001, the lean of the tower, estimated to be about 17 feet top to bottom, continued to increase at a rate of about one millimeter (0.394 inches) per year. Although public access to the tower and its winding 294-step interior taking visitors from base to bell tower was closed 1990 through 2001 to aid efforts to preserve the structure’s integrity, visitors again are being allowed access to the architectural anomaly, although space is limited and reservations are suggested.

Historical facts and points of interest regarding the Leaning Tower of Pisa include:

* 1173 Construction begun; original design sometimes attributed to Bonanno Pisano, sometimes to Gherardo of Gherado

* 1183 Work halted because of unanticipated inclination

* 1275 Work resumed

* 1350 Bell tower completed, leaving structure eight-stories high

* Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) A native of Pisa, Galileo is said to have conducted gravity experiments from the tower

* 1655 Leaning Tower’s largest bell, “The Assumption,“ at 3.5 tons, was cast

* 1934 Concrete injected in base blamed for acceleration of lean

* The Plaza of the Cathedral, in which the Leaning Tower stands, includes a large marble-covered baptistery with a peaked copula, a gift from a Sicilian king; and the marble, Latin cross-shaped cathedral with ornate bronze doors

* Outer diameter of Leaning Tower’s base, about 51 feet

* Inner diameter of Leaning Tower’s base, about 24 feet

Covered with white marble, the interior of the universally recognized Roman-style cylindrical structure includes a winding staircase that affords those climbing its steps the opportunity to step off at any floor to view ornate, open galleries with round arches supported on columns.

Pisa, in earlier times a Greek, then Roman colony, is second only in population to Florence in Italy’s Tuscany region.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa has long been an oddity in the architectural world, and that won’t change in spite of the fact those who worked on it 1990-2001 claim its continuous tilt has been arrested for the first time in the past 800 years.

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