The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a marvel of architecture, beautifully representing the marriage of Gothic and Romanesque styles, but is best known for it’s curious lean. Though precarious in appearance, the Tower is Pisa, with much effort, was made to be structurally sound. This enigmatic Pisian bell tower and it’s peculiar lean have a long-winded story, spanning a gamut of 199 years, and beginning all the way back in 1173.
There’s much speculation surrounding the identity of the Tower of Pisa’s architect, but it’s widely believed to be Diotisalvi, a notable architect of the era, most appreciated for his creation of the bell tower of San Nicola. The largest hole in this conjecture is that if he did design the Pisian tower, he didn’t sign it with his name…which would stand to good reason! Any architect would agree that it was a careless mistake to construct such a lofty tower on a meager three metre foundation set on unstable soil, but such a mistake is credited for the tower’s lean.
The Tower of Pisa began to obviously tilt with the addition of the second level in 1178, only five years after construction began. Off on a bad foot with a long road ahead, the Pisians ceased construction for nearly a century, instead allocating their attention to military engagements with Lucca, Florence, and Genoa. Thankfully, this allowed time for the soil beneath the tower to settle.
Picking back up in 1272, Giovanni di Simone took head of the second phase in the tower’s construction. To compensate for the lean, constructor’s had to build on side of the tower slightly taller than the other to create a level top surface. Due to this, the tower not only leans, but also curves. 12 years later, the Pisians again halted construction to cope with defeat in battle by the Genoans.
The final phase of construction began in 1319 under the direction of Tommaso di Andrea Pisano, who’s credited for overseeing the construction of the seventh floor and bell tower. Construction was finally complete in 1372, the end result, a quirky, but beautiful bell tower, with 7 bells and a head-scratching curve and 3.99 degree tilt.