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The Leaning Tower of Pisa, sometimes called Tower of Pisa or Bell Tower of Pisa, is a bell tower widely known for its unintended tilt. The bell tower is one of the four buildings of the Piazza dei Miracoli, a cathedral complex in the city of Pisa, Tuscany, Italy.
See the fact file below for more information on the Leaning Tower of Pisa or alternatively, you can download our 25-page Leaning Tower of Pisa worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- The Leaning Tower of Pisa is part of a grand cathedral complex that the people of Pisa decided to build to showcase to the world the rise of the city’s fame, wealth and power.
- It is more accurately referred to as the bell tower, or campanile.
- Construction of the bell tower began in August 1173 during a period of military success and prosperity.
- In 1174, Bonanno Pisano laid the foundations for the bell tower. Due to water underneath the ground in the area, the foundation was laid only 3 meters down into the ground.
- The bell tower’s south side began tilting after construction had progressed to the second floor in 1178. This was due to the unstable subsoil the foundation was set in, which couldn’t properly support the structure’s weight. The construction stopped.
- Benenato, son of Gerardo Bottici, oversaw the construction of the bell tower in 1233. He sought to compensate for the lean by building the columns on the south side of the third story an inch taller. When building the fourth story, they had to make the southern columns six inches taller than the northern ones.
- A fifth story was added, with the southern columns taller than the northern ones. The bell tower continued to lean.
- During this time, war broke out between the Republic of Pisa, Genoa, Lucca, and Florence. Construction of the tower was subsequently put to a halt.
- The halt allowed the underlying soil to settle and likely prevented the bell tower’s total collapse.
- In 1272, construction of the bell tower resumed under Giovanni di Simone. He built the sixth story with taller southern columns and the extra weight caused the structure to lean further.
- Construction was halted again when the Republic of Pisa was defeated by Genoa in the Battle of Meloria in 1284. The decline of Pisa began.
- In 1319, the seventh floor was completed.
- In 1350, Tommaso di Andrea Pisano started work on the bell chamber, the tower’s eighth story.
- In 1372, almost 200 years after the construction first began, the tower was finally completed.
Defining Figures and Features
- The bell tower’s original height was planned at 60 meters. Currently, it stands at 56.67 meters on it’s highest side, and 55.86 meters on it’s lowest side. The bell tower weighs 14,700 metric tons.
- The angle of slant of the bell tower is measured at 3.97 degrees.
- The bell tower has eight stories in total. The bottom story consists of 15 marble arches. The six stories above it consist of 30 arches. The bell chamber has 16 arches.
- Twin spiral staircases line the interior of the bell tower, with a total of 296 steps from the ground floor to the bell chamber.
The Bells of the Leaning Tower of Pisa
- Seven bells were installed in the bell chamber over four centuries, namely: Assunta, Crocifisso, San Ranieri, Terza, Pasquereccia or Giustizia, Vespruccio and Dal Pozzo.
- The Pasquereccia is the oldest bell among the seven, and it was rung during Easter. The San Ranieri bell was rung to notify the death of traitors.
- The bells have long been silenced as their movements could worsen the lean of the bell tower.
Architecture and Design
- The Leaning Tower of Pisa is an example of medieval architecture that is Romanesque in style.
- The architect of the bell tower is a controversial subject. There is no name of the architect recorded in the building nor in history.
- Historian Giorgio Vasari named Bonanno Pisano as the architect of the bell tower.
- However, modern historians claim that Diotisalvi was the architect of the bell tower. Diotisalvi was the architect of the Baptistry that showed structural similarities to that of the Tower of Pisa.
- Some historians attribute the bell tower’s design to Biduino, as the ornamentation at the bell tower’s base resembles Biduino’s most well-known works.
- The Piazza dei Miracoli is a grand cathedral complex made up of four buildings – the Cathedral, the Leaning Tower, the Baptistery, and the Camposanto Monumentale.
- In 1987, the Piazza dei Miracoli was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- In Galileo Galilei’s biography, he is said to have dropped two cannonballs of different masses from the bell tower to demonstrate that objects fall with the same acceleration, independent of their masses.
- The Leaning Tower of Pisa’s status as the world’s most tilted building has been challenged by two German churches. Guinness World Records measured all towers.
- The bell tower was suspected to have been an observation post for the Germans during World War II. A U.S. Army sergeant came to confirm German presence and was impressed by the Cathedral and the Leaning Tower. It was spared from destruction.
- In the 1920s, the foundations of the bell tower were injected with cement grout, which helped stabilize it to an extent.
- On February 27, 1964, the government of Italy requested aid in stabilizing the bell tower but emphasized that the tilt be retained as it played a huge role in Pisa’s tourism.
- In 1990, the bell tower was closed in efforts of straightening the structure. 38 cubic meters of soil underneath the raised end was removed. On December 15, 2001, the bell tower was once again reopened to the public.
- In May 2008, engineers announced that the bell tower had stopped moving and would be stable for at least 200 years.
Leaning Tower of Pisa Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Leaning Tower of Pisa across 25 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Leaning Tower of Pisa worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Leaning Tower of Pisa, sometimes called Tower of Pisa or Bell Tower of Pisa, which is a bell tower widely known for its unintended tilt. The bell tower is one of the four buildings of the Piazza dei Miracoli, a cathedral complex in the city of Pisa, Tuscany, Italy.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Leaning Tower of Pisa Facts
- Touring Tuscany
- Around the Square
- Beyond the Square
- Tower Timeline
- True or False
- The Tower in Numbers
- Tilted Wonders of the World
- Pisa Photo Op
- P is for Pisa
- Leaning Tour Guide of Pisa
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Use With Any Curriculum
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