Posts tagged ‘Bell Tower’

Piazza dei Miracoli: The Leaning Tower of Pisa

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.

Leaning Tower, Piazza dei Miracoli, Pisa, Tuscany, Italy

© Mark Simms Photography (2015)

Piazza dei Miracoli

Although Pisa (apologies if you’re still “guessing” the location from my last post but one…;0)…) is most famous for its “Leaning Tower”, that somewhat ignores the other, and arguably more impressive, medieval monuments that clamour for attention in the Piazza dei Miracoli where the tower stands. Also known as the Campo dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles) or Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square) this gigantic open space in the northwest of Pisa is home to four quite magnificent architectural treasures in the Romanesque style. 

The shot below just about shows all four monuments in question – most prominent is the Baptistry, behind that is the Duomo (Cathedral) and behind that the Campanile (or leaning bell tower) itself. The short section of wall that you can just see in the lower left corner (and runs behind the Baptistry and Duomo) is the Camposanto (or Holy Field): a monumental walled cemetery where many prominent Pisans have been laid to rest.

A fact I didn’t appreciate until I visited, is that the Campanile is not the only monument in Pisa that leans, because apparently both the Baptistry and the Duomo do as well. I hope that partly explains the slightly exaggerated distorted angle of the Baptistry in the shot below, although I suspect that some of that is due to the wide-angle lens I was using as well:

Piazza dei Miracoli, Pisa, Tuscany, Italy

© Mark Simms Photography (2015)

Florence’s Duomo

Along with Rome’s Colosseum and Pisa’s Leaning Tower, the Duomo in Florence is one of Italy’s “big three” tourist attractions……..and with good reason.

Also know as the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (“Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower”) construction started in 1296 and the main building took 150 years to complete. Giotto’s bell tower (the campanile) was built between 1334 and 1359; the famous dome (widely regarded as one of the finest masterpieces of the Renaissance) was added between 1420 and 1436 and the neo-gothic facade was re-designed in the late 19th Century.

From the outside it is truly breathtaking, not just because of its monumental size, but also because of it’s aesthetically pleasing form – most notably the stunning octagonal red brick dome (the largest masonry dome in the world) the elegant 85m high campanile and the fabulous pink, white and green marble decoration.

Next up, shots from the top of the campanile……

© Mark Simms Photography (2015)

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