HISTORY LURE: FAMOUS STRUCTURES

Leaning Tower Of PIsa

If you have kids who like to build with LEGO®, K’NEX®, Tinkertoy®, or other construction toys, you might be able to spark an interest in history with a challenge to make a replica of something famous, the idea being that they might then be interested in knowing why it was famous.
One possibility for this is the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Construction of the Tower of Pisa began on August 9th, 1173, with the word ‘leaning’ not yet part of the sobriquet. Designed to house the bells of the cathedral of the Piazza dei Miracoli (Place of Miracles) it was intended to be the most magnificent bell tower in Europe, but by the time it got to three storeys, construction was stopped. Why is not really known, but it could be that, due to instability caused by the remains of an ancient river estuary that ran underneath it, it had already begun to sink into the ground.
Whatever the reason, the tower was put on hold for ninety-five years. The next engineer to take it on opted to make the new storeys slightly taller on the short side to compensate for the tower’s visible lean, but by the time construction was again halted in 1278, the southward tilt on the now seven-storey structure was nearly three feet.The eighth and last storey was the bell chamber, begun in 1360, when workers tried to fix the lean by building the chamber at a slight slant with the rest of the structure.
Officially completed about 1370, the Tower of Pisa’s was still considered an architectural delight, even with the lean, and people have been going to see it ever since. Even so, various attempts have been made to correct the lean down through the centuries, and on February 27th, 1964, the Italian government announced that it was seeking ideas on how to save the famed tower from collapse. After several failed attempts at restoration, safety concerns led to the tower being closed to the public in 1990.
In 1999 a slow-paced extraction of soil from under the north side began to have a positive effect. on the tower. By the end of 2000, its tilt had been reduced by almost a foot, and the reduction of a further six inches enabled the tower to be reopened in December 2001. It is believed the eighteen inch reduction in the tower’s tilt will enable it to stand for at least another three hundred years, thus allowing several generations to get pictures of themselves trying to hold it up.

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