Leaning Tower of Pisa

Piazza del Duomo, behind the Cathedral
Pisa, Tuscany, Italy

Leaning Tower of Pisa
Photo: Softeis License: CC BY-SA 3.0
Construction began on the tower in 1173, and it started to lean during construction. Over the centuries, steps were taken to compensate for the incline, but the tower was in danger of falling until the late 20th century.

Map of the Area Around
Leaning Tower of Pisa

Will the Tower Fall?

In 1964, the government of Italy asked for help to prevent the tower from falling over. Engineers, mathematicians, and historians from many nations gathered to discuss the problem. The tilt was increasing and the group proposed many ideas to stabilize the tower.

On January 7, 1990, the tower was closed, and the bells were removed to relieve some weight. Cables were strung from the third level and anchored several hundred meters away. Apartments and houses in the path of the tower were vacated for safety.

It was considered necessary by the Italian and city governments to keep the tower tilted, because it was a popular attraction and was important to the tourism industry of Pisa. In the end, however, it was decided that the only solution to prevent the collapse of the tower was to slightly straighten it to a safer angle.

Eight hundred tonnes of lead counterweights were placed on the raised end of the base. Thirty-eight cubic meters (50 cubic yards) of soil were removed from underneath the raised end, and the tower was straightened by 45 centimeters (18 inches).

It was 10 years before the tower was reopened to the public on December 15, 2001. In May 2008, after the removal of another 70 metric tons of ground, engineers announced that the Leaning Tower of Pisa had been stabilized enough that it had stopped moving for the first time in its history.

It took over 800 years for mankind to develop the technology that will keep the tower standing.

Leaning Tower of Pisa Categories

  • Man-Made

    Work on the ground floor of the bell tower began on August 14, 1173. The tower began to sink almost immediately due to a small foundation set in weak, unstable soil.
  • Musical Landmarks

    There are seven bells in the Leaning Tower of Pisa, one for each note of the musical major scale. Because of problems with the construction, the bell-chamber was not completed until 1372. The largest bell was installed in 1655.
  • Odd and Unusual

    In an effort to compensate for the tilt, the upper floors were built with one side taller than the other. Because of this, the tower is actually curved. The top of the tower is about 3.9 metres (12 ft 10 in) from where it should be.
  • Places of Worship, Religious Buildings

    The famous tower is a free standing bell tower for the Cathedral of Pisa. It stands behind the Cathedral and is the third oldest structure in Pisa's Cathedral Square.
  • World Heritage Site

    In 1987 the Leaning Tower of Pisa was declared part of the Piazza del Duomo UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the neighboring cathedral, baptistery and cemetery.

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