By way of introduction to the Piazza dei Miracoli I have already posted a shot of the Leaning Tower of Pisa here. However as it is one of the most iconic and recognisable buildings in the world, I thought it deserved a second post.
Built as a campanile (or bell tower) to the adjacent Duomo, it is a perfect example of how not to build a tower. I say that, because if you thought the famously pronounced lean was the result of centuries of subsidence after the tower was constructed……then think again. Construction started in 1173 but stopped after a decade because the first three floors……..err………started tilting!!
It was nearly 100 years later that building started again and although many attempts were made to bolster the foundations and correct the lean, none of these proved successful. Rather than abandon the current plan however, the crazy Pisan builders decided to press on regardless, trying to compensate for the lean by building the subsequent tiers straight-up from the lower floors and thus introducing a slight curve to the outline of the building.
So the Leaning Tower has always leaned ever since it was built………and over the subsequent centuries it has tilted by about 1mm more each year.
In the 1950’s the 7 bells which had rung out for approximately six centuries had to be removed to relieve some of the weight on the building and pressure on the precarious foundations.
Things came to a head in the 1990’s. In 1990 itself the tower was closed to the public. In 1993 it was nearly 4.5m off centre and in 1995 it slipped by a whole 2.5mm. The solution was to fix the tower in place by attaching steel cables to the second and third floors and anchoring them to neighbouring buildings. This allowed engineers to remove 70 tonnes of earth from under the northern side and allow the tower to sink into its foundations and thereby correct the lean by nearly half a meter.
So far this has proved successful and the tower is again open to the public, although with numbers strictly limited to only a few at a time.
© Mark Simms Photography (2015)