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In 600 BC, the town of Pisa was founded, its name comes from a Greek word meaning “Marshy Land.”In 1063, the Pisans from the city of Pisa attacked the city of Palermo on the island of Sicily in 1063. The attack was successful, and the conquerors returned to Pisa with a ton of treasure. To show the world just how famous the city of Pisa was, the people decided to build a vast cathedral complex. The complex was called the Field of Miracles. The plan included a cathedral, a baptistery, a bell tower (the leaning tower) and a cemetery.
Construction of the Tower began on August 9th, 1173, when the foundation for the Tower was laid. The Tower began to sink after development had progressed to the second floor in 1178. The sinking was due to an inadequate 3-meter clay foundation, set in a weak, unstable subsoil. The design was flawed from the beginning.
Construction was halted for almost a century while the Republic of Pisa was continuously engaged in battles with Genoa, Lucca, and Florence. Ironically this time of inaction allowed for the underlying soil to settle. Some architects believe the Tower would have toppled, without this period of inaction.
In 1272 construction was resumed on the Tower. To compensate for the tilt, the engineers built upper floors with one side taller than the other. Because of this, the Tower is curved. Construction was halted again in 1284 when the Pisans were defeated by the Genoans in the battle of Meloria.
In 1319th the seventh floor was finished. The bell-chamber was added in 1372, which signified the end of construction on the Tower. It took 199 years to complete construction of the Tower! And you thought modern day contractors milk the clock. 199 years is a lot of time, as a comparison lets see what was or was not going on in the U.S. in 1818:
James Monroe was President of the United States (Number 5)
There were only 20 U.S. states
Slavery was not only legal, but business was booming
The civil war hadn’t occurred yet
Women nor African Americans could vote
The automobile, airplane, telephone and light bulb weren’t invited yet
Greg Oden…er… Frederick Douglas was born in 1818
The Pisans took just as long to build that Tower, as it will probably take for Trump to get his Precious wall built, or as long as the U.S.A will be engaged in warfare in Afghanistan.
In 1838, Alessandro Della Gherardesca, a famous architect, thought Pisa could benefit if the base of the Tower were exposed. At the time the bottom of the Tower was mostly underground, and all the lovely artwork that took 200 years to complete (sigh) was only visible to ants and earthworms. He gave the order to dig the base out of the ground, as a result of the digging, the Tower increased its inclination. Who didn’t see that coming?
In 1934, Benito Mussolini the then Italian Dictator called the Tower an “embarrassment” for Italy. Apparently, the Tower was more of an embarrassment for Mussolini then his dictator policies and his future team up with Adolf Hitler, but to each his own. He ordered that the Tower be straightened. 361 holes were drilled in the foundation of the Tower, and 90 cubic meters of concrete was poured into the holes. The result? An overwhelming increase in the inclination of the monument. Mussolini was just as bad of an architect as he was a dictator and general.
After these 2 wrong attempts to fix or showcase the Tower, experts predicted the Tower would collapse sometime between 2030 and 2040. In the year 1350, the lean was reported to be 1.4 degrees, in 1993 the lean was calculated at 5 degrees.
In 1990 a project was started to save the Tower. The project would last for over 10 years (leaving the monument closed to visitors during that time) and cost over 30 Million Euros. The architects; placed counterweights at the base of the Tower, harnessed the monument with gigantic steel cables, dug wells under the foundation of the Tower, drained water from the wells, reinforced the foundations with concrete and finally pulling the steel cables to begin the straightening motion.
This time, the fix worked! Over 50 cm of lean was recovered, bringing the Tower back to a 4 degree lean. The Tower was proclaimed out of danger of collapsing and reopened to the public in 2001. An additional 2.5 centimeters of lean had rescinded from the straightening since those works. Architects say the Tower should be safe for 200 years before any other work needs to be done to fix it
Pisa just wanted the Tower to be safe and not straightened completely, because who the hell would visit Pisa otherwise?
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of the most famous monuments in the world. Over 5 million visitors visit the monument every year. All those tourism dollars adds up to 21 million euros of revenue a year.
Mistakes Were Made:
Unlike my other tales on this blog, this mistake actually ended up benefitting the town of Pisa. Nobody got killed, nobody was swindled in a real estate transaction, no corporation collapsed, nobody was enslaved, no horrible law was passed, no animals died, nobody was discriminated, etc.. Only Mussolini was embarrassed, but history has shown that guy was a loser anyways.
Interesting Facts about the Tower of Pisa and the city of Pisa:
The Tower has survived at least 4 strong earthquakes. Apparently, the height and stiffness of the Tower mixed with the softness of the foundation soil creates an earthquake-proof realm around the Tower
There are several other towers in Pisa that also lean. The Cathedral and Baptistry of the Field of Miracles are also sinking
Galileo was baptized in the baptistry in 1565
You can actually go inside the Tower and climb all the way to the top, where the top floor is actually level! At least they got something right in those 200 years. The privilege will cost you 18 euros, however.
Originally published at https://mwmblog.com on September 23, 2019.