Monday, August 9, 2010

August 9, 1173 – Pisa Tower Redoubles Foundation

Pisa, the Italian city-state well known for its university, began construction of its freestanding tower beside the cathedral after prosperity and military success gave the city extra wealth. Before readying for full construction, however, architects noticed the lack of solidity as they dug the foundation. Risking public outcry and suspicion that they may simply be looking for more money, directions were given to the workers for a much larger foundation to support the full magnitude of a glorious tower. Taking over 177 years to complete, interrupted several times by warfare, particularly with the Genoans, the Tower of Pisa stood as a magnificent work among the many magnificent works of late medieval Italy.

While beautiful, tourists to Pisa usually ignored the tower and instead focus on the Campo Santo, the monumental cemetery built 1278-1464, originally by architect Giovanni di Simone. Specifically in the Romantic and Victorian eras, the site was a great draw for foreigners with its large collection of Roman sculptures and impressive frescoes. However, during the bombings of World War II, the lead roof was melted, nearly destroying the building and dealing great damage to the works inside.

Today, Pisa is a little known Italian city working to renovate its old masterpieces and regain much of its lost tourism.

In reality, the foundation of the campanile was built too small. It began to sink noticeably within five years of beginning construction. Despite the lackluster start, the tower was eventually completed and stood as a great marvel of botched engineering as well as romance. The infamy of the Leaning Tower has kept Pisa in the minds of travelers for centuries as a destination as significant as the canals of Venice or the ash-edged streets of Pompeii.

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