Leaning Tower of Pisa - Italy
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Leaning Tower of Pisa

Leaning Tower of Pisa
Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Leaning Tower of Pisa wasn't supposed to lean at all. It was supposed to just be the bell tower for the Cathedral of Pisa. It was to hold the bells that rang to tell people when to come to church. But when they built the tower, in the Early Middle Ages, about 1173 AD, nobody in Europe had been building anything much for several hundred years, and the architects were not really experienced. This tower looks like the bell tower from the Romanesque church at Toulouse almost 200 years earlier, but it stands alone instead of on top of the church. The architects were probably imitating Islamic minarets from across the Mediterranean Sea, but they didn't really know what they were doing.

So the architects built their bell tower on soft ground, without enough foundations, and as soon as they were done the tower began to slowly tilt over sideways. But very slowly.

Even today, the tower is still tilting over, little by little, though mostly people have stopped it now with reinforcements to make it stronger.

Learn by doing: listen to church bells ringing
More about minarets

Bibliography and further reading about Romanesque architecture:

Romanesque architecture
More medieval architecture
Main medieval page
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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