Facts About the Walk Way of the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Facts About the Walk Way of the Leaning Tower of Pisa
One of the world's most easily identified structures, Italy's Leaning Tower of Pisa towers seven stories high and weighs 14,500 tons. The architecture and history of the tower has long been the subject of debate among architects and historians, and many mistakes in its construction have been uncovered.
 

Background

Those who began work on the tower's foundation in 1173 did not realize that the soil on which they were building was the site of former estuary. This meant the sandy soil was mixed with shells and other sediment and was unstable from the start. After completing just three stories, the workers stopped when the tower began to lean.

 
 

The architect

Centuries after the tower's completion, in 1838, architect Alessandro della Gherardesca decided to dig a walkway around the base of the tower to make the foundation visible to visitors.

Significance

In 1859, builders and architects realized that the excavation of the walkway, or catino, had contributed to an even greater lean. Since the walkway was below the water table on the south side, the digging had created a rush of water that flooded the base of the Romanesque-style tower.

Effects

Tower officials were horrified to find that della Gherardesca's excavation of the walkway caused the structure to lean almost half a degree more.

The Current State of the Tower

No real progress was made in preventing the tower's further incline until the 1990s when it was closed to tourists. The government hired architects and engineers to work on saving the structure. Some success resulted from extracting soil beneath the tower, and Italian tourism officials say it is more stable than it has ever been.

 

Article Written By Debbie Selinsky

Debbie Selinsky is an award-winning writer based in North Carolina. Selinsky is the former senior editor of "Success Magazine" and deputy director of the Duke University News Service. She has written about travel for many years and specializes in cruise travel, having sailed on more than 100 cruises. Selinsky attended North Greenville University, Oregon Institute of Technology and the Poynter Institute for Journalistic Excellence.

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