Why does the leaning Tower of Pisa lean?

ADVERTISEMENT


Are you one of those people that took the clichéd photo pretending to hold up the Leaning Tower of Pisa when you went? Yes? Shame on you! Just joking, we’d totally have done the same thing. If you’ve ever visited, you might have been left wondering why it leans to one side. Even if you’ve not been, you must be curious to know why the tower has been leaning for so long, it must be tired now surely! Well wonder no more, we have the answer.

History lesson time

There is a shroud of mystery surrounding the original architect of the tower, but many people believe it was Pisa resident, Diotisalvi. The time it was built, and his activity during that period has led many people to that conclusion. It took almost 200 years to construct the tower. Work began on the ground floor in 1173, but the tower started sinking not long after then. The foundations were not deep enough and were set in unsuitable soil, resulting in the sinking beginning in 1178. So after only one level was built, the tower was already falling over. Genius.

War ruins everything

Construction was stopped for nearly a century thanks to the various battles and wars Pisa was involved in. Eventually, building resumed in 1272. The upper floor was built during this time, and the tilt was compensated for by building one side taller than the other. Thanks to this skewed construction the tower is actually curved. The tower was not yet complete, but the people of Pisa just couldn’t resist a good old scrap, and so they set off for another battle.

The battle halted the construction of the final tier of the tower. Finally completed in 1372, the bell-chamber was essentially the icing on this cake shaped building. The chamber holds seven bells, each bell provides one of the seven major musical scales. During World War II, it was suspected that German troops were hiding out in the tower, so the Allies sent scouts to confirm the rumor. Those sneaky Germans were indeed using it to hide and observe allied movements. Luckily, a US Army sergeant decided the tower was too beautiful to blow up and refused to order an artillery strike to obliterate it and its enemy tenants.

Modernizing the tower

Not much has changed since construction, but there is regular work to strengthen the foundations in the hope that the famous tower doesn’t just give up and topple over some day. The tower was close to collapsing and was closed to the public in 1990. Frantic stabilization measures were put in place. Houses in the path of the tower were vacated, just in case the worst happened. Luckily a solution was discovered, and soon the tower was being straightened to a safer angle.

They did this by removing truckloads of soil from underneath the raised end. The lean went from 5.5 degrees to 3.99 degrees after this bit of work. Finally, for the first time in the history of the tower, it was no longer on the move, and the public were once again allowed to visit. Those living in the nearby houses could breathe a huge sigh of relief.

So there’s the reason, the fact of the matter is they just didn’t plan properly. Instead of starting over again, the architects decided to continue building it with a lean, hoping the dodgy foundations would hold. Something that ultimately was a good decision because it is such a tourist attraction, but we reckon it causes countless headaches trying to keep it up.

ADVERTISEMENT