Facts about the leaning Tower of Pisa

by Mark Benson on July 23, 2013

Facts about the leaning Tower of Pisa

Facts about the leaning Tower of Pisa

There are many eye-catching and wonderful buildings and properties around the world but few of them capture the imagination to the extent of the leaning Tower of Pisa. We all know that the tower itself leans to one side, we’ve all heard the name, but where is the leaning Tower of Pisa, why does it leaning and why has this not been corrected over the years?

We will now take a look at some facts and figures with regards to the leaning Tower of Pisa that may surprise you.

Basic facts about the leaning Tower of Pisa

Such is the lean on the tower that the height of the tower from the low side is 55.86 m although this extends to 56.70 m on the high side. As you’ll see from the picture, the base of the leaning Tower of Pisa is far wider than the top of the building. The walls at the bottom of the tower are 4.09 m wide while only 2.48 m at the top. While all of these figures and facts make perfect sense, did you know that the structure itself weighs 14,500 metric tons?

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While many assume that the tower began to lean after construction was completed this is most certainly not the case and due to its unique design there are 296 steps in one direction and 294 steps in the other. The tower itself had for many years leaned at an angle of 5.5° although after restoration work was completed in 2001 this angle was reduced to 3.99°.

Why does the tower lean?

To fully understand why the tower leans at around 4° we will take a look back at the history of the building upon which work commenced back on 14 August 1173. Initially a white marble floor base was constructed taking in an array of classical Corinthian designs. Due to the fact there were various conflicts in and around the region you may be interested to find out that while work began in 1173 it was not completed until around 1372. It is debated as to whether the building took 185 years to complete or there were an extra 10 years taking it to 195 years. Either way, this was certainly a long-term project!

While the property has eight different levels it was after the construction of the second level back in 1178 that it began to tilt. History now shows that the reason that the leaning Tower of Pisa tilts is because the initial foundation for the building was only 3 m in depth. The soil in and around the base of the leaning Tower of Pisa was unstable and much of it was soft. Scientists believe that if construction of the eight story property had continued beyond 1178, and here had not been a 20 year break to 1198, the leaning Tower of Pisa would have actually collapse. As it happens this gave the soil at the base the chance to settle.

Compensating for the lean

One of the many construction phases of the leaning Tower of Pisa began in 1272 and by this time the lean was obvious and architects were looking to compensate this to ensure the building stayed upright. As a consequence, this particular phase of construction saw architects building upper floors to the leaning Tower of Pisa with one side taller than the other. This was a means of reducing pressure on the base and therefore not increasing the lean factor – although rather bizarrely if you look carefully it does actually give a curved look to the structure.

The seventh floor of the leaning Tower of Pisa was added to the property in 1319 offering something of a Gothic design and feel. While from the outside the leaning Tower of Pisa looks much the same, it does actually incorporate an array of different periodic architecture within. The last floor of the property was completed in 1372 and this is the smaller one in the shape of the bell chamber. There is some debate about exactly who designed the property as various architects have claimed this mantle over the years – the truth is that nobody knows for certain. The leaning Tower of Pisa does much for tourism in and around the area and local authorities in the region have purposely decided against the idea of reducing the lean yet further.

Conclusion

The life and times of the leaning Tower of Pisa make for interesting reading and when you bear in mind the structure took nearly 200 years to complete it was certainly not an overnight project. One interesting fact which often goes unmentioned is that the Germans used the leaning Tower of Pisa as a lookout point during the Second World War, and, while the Americans became aware, such was the beauty of the structure that they decided against a military strike.

Enormous amounts of soil have been taken from the base of the leaning Tower of Pisa over the years to try and safeguard the structure for the future. Engineers have discussed a number of possible resolutions to the leaning problem and while some weight has been taken off the tower in the shape of the bells it is as an issue which will arise again in the future (engineers believe that the property is now safe for at least 200 years).

For a property which took so long to build, physically looks unsafe to the eye it has had an immense impact upon tourism in the region. Not only is the leaning Tower of Pisa part of the Pisa Cathedral but it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site bringing with it a number of safeguards for the future.

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