6 Interesting Facts About the Leaning Tower of Pisa
By: Liz Flynn
While many structures in the world go relatively unnoticed, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is recognisable across the globe. Despite its fame, there are many facts that people do not know about this historic Italian structure.
1. The tower was built using stolen money
Pisa was a prosperous city in the 12th century and they had treasures that adventurers had stolen on their travels. They decide to use their ill-gotten money to build the ‘Field of Miracles’ as a place to display their treasures. This would include a cathedral, a baptistry, a cemetery and a tall bell tower.
2. The lean happened gradually
Pisa is predominantly marshland. In fact, the name ‘Pisa’ is derived from a Greek word that translates as ‘marshy land’. The architects should have taken this into account before building a large bell tower in that location. The lean is caused by the heavy, shallow foundations used. The tower did not begin to sink until the second story of the tower was being built. The builders did try to offset the problem by creating taller arches and columns on the tower’s south side.
3. The lean has caused the Leaning Tower of Pisa to have some interesting statistics
Although the intended height for the structure was 60 meters, the tower does not measure this at any point. The highest side measures 56.67 meters and the lowest side is 55.86 meters. This means that there are an uneven number of steps on each side of the tower; the north side has 296 while the south side has just 294. At its worst, the tower had a tilt of 5.5 degrees. Restoration work reduced this to 3.97 degrees.
4. There are more than one leaning towers in Pisa although it is the bell tower at the Field of Miracles that is best-known
Other leaning towers include the bell tower at the Church of St. Nicola and the bell tower at the Church of St. Michele dei Scalzi. Their leans were also caused by constructing on soft subsoil.
5. The bells of this bell tower do not ring
Despite its original purpose as a bell tower, the bells have not rung since the 20th century. There are safety reasons for this. There are seven bells and each of these weighs approximately 8,000 pounds. Engineers have concerns that the movements of the bells will increase the chances of movement that will cause the tower to lean more.
6. Mussolini, the 20th-century dictator, believed that the Leaning Tower of Pisa was a national disgrace
He believed that the poor construction was an embarrassment to Italy and decided he would resolve the problem. He intended to do this by having holes drilled through the base and then adding mortar. The aim was to stabilize the structure. Unfortunately, he achieved the opposite result as the base was made heavier and this caused the tower to sink and lean further.
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