History of the Leaning Tower of
The City of Pisa played an important role in
As a vital seaport and a major center of
trade, many people visited the city. In the early days, Pisa
was a popular resting place for pilgrims from Europe on their
way to Jerusalem. The military fleet of Pisa was most
In 871 the fleet helped defend the Salerno
from attackers, and it was Pisans that forced the Arab troops
from the islands of Corsica and Sardinia in 1015.
As their riches and influence increased, the city of
Pisa, Italy, became more and more powerful.
The island of Corsica came under Pisan control in 1077, and in 1113 so did the
Balearic Islands near Spain. The Pisans enjoyed a time of great prosperity
The decline of Pisa began in 1284 when Genoa defeated the Pisans in battle. The
islands controlled by Pisa were lost and the influence began to decline.
By the: 15th century the Arno River had become so filled with silt that it
completely cut off Pisa from the sea. This marked the end of Pisa as a useful port and the end of
its wealth and power.
In 1174, engineer Bonnano Pisano laid a
marble foundation large enough to park about 16 Ferrari 328s
in and started building the campanile for the cathedral and
baptistry of Pisa.
Tower of Pisa, comprising 14,000
tonnes of white marble, was completed 176 years later -
but it was also embarrassingly crooked.
Because there was a lot of water under the
ground in this area, Bonnano was able to place the foundation
only about 10 feet down into the ground.
As the first story of the tower was
completed, the south side began to sink.
The builders tried to make it look better
by building the columns and arches on the south side about an inch taller than those on the
However by the time they got to the fourth story, they had to make the southern
columns 2 inches taller than the northern ones. The tower just continued to lean, and because of
the difficulties the construction was stopped.
In 1234, the architect Benenato discovered that the tower was leaning even more.
Now the south side of the fourth story was a full 6 inches shorter than the north side.
He added a fifth story, again making the south columns taller than the north
ones. After adding that one story, Benenato gave up, and again construction on the tower
Almost thirty years later, in 1260, William of Innsbruck added the sixth and
seventh stories to the Tower of Pisa.
In 1350 Tommaso Pisano started work on the eighth story of the tower, the bell
chamber. He found that the tower was still sinking, and so he made the spiral stairs inside the
tower and the wall of the bell chamber higher on the south side than on the north. The tower was
finally completed in 1372, almost 200 years after it was begun, and it was still leaning.
See also Historical Facts about Tower of Pisa.