Monday, October 21, 2013

A Leaning Tower

At an angle
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is perhaps one of the most iconic and well known sights in the world because, well, the tower leans.  It wasn't actually designed to lean but ever since it took on its tilt early in her 344 year construction history, it has remained that way.  So why does the tower lean?  Apparently it was constructed with an inadequate foundation on soft ground that began to sink in 1178 once the second floor was added to the tower.  Logic would dictate that construction would have stopped but instead it continued until the resulting construction project was the 14,500 ton marble and granite masterpiece it is today.  When completed the south side of the tower was 187.27 feet and had 296 steps while the north side stood at 186 feet and had 294 steps.  The difference sounds minuscule results in a noticeable tilt.  The degree of the lean increased through the centuries with ongoing debates as to whether or not the tower should simply be straightened. The 1989 collapse of the Civic Tower of Pavia outside of Milan hastened the decision to fortify Pisa's tower and when it reopened to the public in 2001 the tower still had a lean but was a bit straighter, sturdier, and more importantly, the work was promised to hold for another 300 years.  (None of us will be around in 2301 to test the workmanship but you get the idea).  How is that for a warranty?
Another perspective

Despite all of this, a visit to the Leaning Tower is pretty darn cool.  I seriously don't like heights but managed to overcome them during my first visit to Pisa where I slowly followed the crowds as we wound our way up the spiral to the top of the tower.  Sure you can visually see the lean from the outside of the tower but once inside, the tilt is even more noticeable as you climb the stairs.  Compounding the lean is the fact that these stairs, all 294 and 296 of them, have been worn by visitors and time, making them concave in spots and convoluted in others.  I found it rather unnerving to make my tilted way to the top and then back down again and wasn't sure whether I was standing erect or at a tilt once I was back on the ground.

During my most recent visit to Pisa I noticed that the tower isn't the only thing that is leaning in the city.  The nearby Duomo also appears to have an ever so slight tilt to it which would make sense given its close proximity to the tower.  At first I thought it was just my imagination but when Glenn commented on it I thought that perhaps I was onto something.  It makes me wonder if the entire city is sinking?  Or at least the area around the Duomo and tower.  (Sink holes immediately come to mind!).  I can't find any evidence that says it is but the region is in a medium risk zone for earthquakes so what would a moderate sized tremor do to the already leaning architecture?  I'm not saying it is going to happen but it does make me wonder...............

1 comment:

  1. I don't know if I could work up the nerve to go into a really tall building that my imagination could see falling over just as I reach the top! I'm glad you got a chance to though, and the pictures are beautiful! Thank you for them!