The Architectural History Behind the Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Leaning Tower of Pisa or the Torre Pendente di Pisa is a historical architecture piece that is significantly different compared to other medieval architecture. It is located on Piazza del Duomo, Pisa’s main square, and the Leaning Tower is just the third oldest building built on the plaza, after the stunning Cathedral and its Baptistry. The Leaning Tower of Pisa’s several arches and columns features the advanced knowledge of weight and characteristics that shows how Italians are experts in architecture. If that’s the case, why is this historical landmark leaning, and why is it still standing after hundreds of years?

The Construction of the Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Tower’s creation started in 1173, and it was initially designed to be a bell tower. The Tower stood upright for the first five years since it was erected; however, when the third floor was finally completed, the Tower slowly began to lean. The workers and the locals, were shocked when they noticed the Tower started to lean ever so lightly.

The reason why the Tower lean is that the architect did not carefully plan the building of the base of the Tower because it is only 3-meters deep and it was built on a dense clay mixture land. This impacted the soil and did not make the clay strong enough to perfectly hold the Tower upright. As a result, the weight of the Tower pushed it downwards until it found the weakest point. 

Because of this problem, the construction of the Tower was halted for almost 100 years. The Italian government just decided to focus on their war with Genoa, and they let the Tower be with the hopes that the soil will eventually settle. 

Another Mistake

After halting the Tower’s construction for almost 100 years, engineer Giovanni di Simone decided to take on the challenge and started to add more floors to the Tower. He tried to balance the Tower by making one side of the additional floors taller than the others. However, this move only caused the Tower to lean over even more. 

But, the continued leaning did not stop them from adding the 7th floor during the 14th century. They also added a bell tower before leaving it on its own up until the 19th century. In 1838, an architect named Alessandro Della Gherardesca decided to dig a pathway located at the tower base. This was meant to accommodate the people who want to admire the beauty of the intricately crafted base of the Tower. However, digging the Tower’s base caused it to lean even more. 

Tower Surprisingly Survived World War II

Most of us know that World War II caused significant destruction in several countries all over the world. But, the Leaning Tower of Pisa was a fortunate piece of architecture. It was able to survive even if the American soldiers invaded Pisa and were ordered to destroy all buildings so that enemy snipers would not have any suitable places to hide. During World War II, there was no exception to this rule. That is why several buildings were blown up every single day as the US forces advance through the Italian countryside. Fortunately, a retreat took place not long after the arrival of the Americans; that is why they decided that it was unnecessary to destroy the Leaning Tower of Pisa. 

The Tower is Still Standing

After World War II ended, the government of Italy asked for help so that they could fix the Leaning Tower and prevent it from toppling. But, as much as they want to fix it, the Italians did not want the Tower to lose its leaning because it became an iconic symbol of the city as well as a well-loved landmark by tourists from all across the globe. As a result, architects and engineers decided to install a leaden counterweight in the Tower with over 800 tons. 

In 1987, the Leaning Tower of Pisa became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Three years after that, the Tower was closed, and the bells were removed in order to make way for the weights that will anchor the Tower. In 2001, the Tower was reopened, and up until today, tourists and locals alike can safely visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa.