the 11th to 13th centuries, Pisa's fleets dominated the Western Mediterranean.
It was a protected port six miles inland from the sea. But, its days
of glory were numbered when the Arno River began to silt up, separating
it from the sea, and the navy was defeated by Genoa in 1284.
have been left high and dry as a naval force, but it wasn't down and
out in Beverly . . . er, Tuscan hills. Pisa still held its place on
the map with one of the world's great attractions, the Campo
dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles) with the Leaning
Tower. And, Pisa was ready for the onslaught of tourists with
more souvenir hawkers than I saw anywhere else in Italy!
The tower was
only a part of the complex that also housed a baptistery (1260), duomo
(1063) and cemetery (1278). The tower with seven bells (I only saw
five) was started in 1173. Early on in the construction, builders
realized it was on a shallow foundation and sandy silt subsoil. Actually,
all of the building in the compound tilted. It's just none of them
did so as much as the tower. It started tilting by the time the third
story was constructed. That's not quite half way up the 200 foot building.
45 people were allowed to go up the tower every half hour. Even
though it was nothing close to peak season, I had a two hour wait.
But, that was enough time to buy a souvenir, grab something to eat,
and begin a sketch for a clipart piece of the tower. Then, I headed
up the 294 tilting marble stairs. It was blue skies and white puffy
clouds when I arrived in Pisa. That didn't last till I got to the
top of the tower. It was lightly raining. However, having lived
in Belgium for nine years, a little rain was nothing. I was glad
I went to the top.
It's a continual problem to keep the effects of time, erosion, and
gravity from destroying the Tower. Stress caused by leaning as well
as erosion and cracking have called for the replacement of 135 of
the Tower's 180 marble columns. Architects and engineers throughout
the ages have tried to battle that leaning, which currently was
about 5 degrees, 15 feet off the vertical axis. The latest effort
removed sixty tons of soil from the north side, causing the tower
to straighten its lean by six inches.