Pisa's Field of Miracles with the Duomo and Leaning Tower

PISA.. .From 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.

Pisa might 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.


Around 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.


Copyright 2011 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.