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The Leaning Tower of Pisa was once a Nazi observation post; the allies abstained from ordering any strikes because of its beauty

Stefan Andrews

World-renowned for its unintended tilt, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is situated behind Pisa’s cathedral and is one of the oldest structures in the city’s Cathedral Square.

The tower’s tilt occurred during construction, and ever since, has caused the tower to move a little bit. The fault was caused because of inadequate foundation on the ground, too soft on the one side to support the structure’s weight well enough; this brought fame to the site in any case.

Pisa Cathedral and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. photo credit

There are many intriguing facts and stories about the Leaning Tower of Pisa. For instance, its construction took three stages and a period of almost 200 years. Its history after completion is a perplexed one, with countless attempts to restore the tower to a straight vertical and also keep it from falling over. Most of these efforts had failed, and even worse, further extended the slide.

Other stories include that of Galileo Galilei, who is said to have dropped two cannon balls of different masses from the tower so as to demonstrate that their speed of falling was independent of their mass.

Through this experiment, Galileo supposedly discovered that objects fell with the same acceleration, proving his foresight correct, while at the same time refuting Aristotle’s theory of gravity. The single primary source for the experiment can be found in the biography book “Historical Account of the Life of Galileo Galilei” written by Galileo’s secretary, Vincenzo Viviani. While Viviani claimed that the experiment took place at the Pisa tower, Galileo had not yet formulated the final version of his free fall.

Even more intriguing is the occupation of the Leaning Tower of Pisa during WWII, when the Allies discovered that the Germans were using the tower as an observation post. Reportedly, a U.S. Army sergeant who was sent to confirm the presence of German troops in the tower was astounded by the beauty of the cathedral square and its surroundings and therefore abstained from ordering any artillery strikes. This, of course, saved this beauty from its possible demise.

On February 27, 1964, the Italian government had requested aid in preventing the tower from falling, but it was settled that the current tilt was important for preserving as it was. The tilt made the tower unique and iconic, thus it was considered important for local tourism.

Super-leaning. photo credit


Lead counterweights set on the tower (1998). photo credit

Nevertheless, following two decades of studies and research, and especially after the abrupt collapse of the Civic Tower of Pavia in 1989, the Leaning Tower of Pisa was closed to the public on January 1990. Upon closure, the tower bells were removed to relieve some weight, and other interventions were made as well that helped to slightly straighten the tower to a safer angle. It was reopened to the public almost a decade later, on December 15, 2001. It was then declared that the structure was safe and sound for at least another 300 years.

Before the interventions done in the 1990’s, the tower was continually inclining, but in May 2008, it was announced that it had been stabilized to the point that it had stopped moving for the first time since its completion in 1372.

photo credit

Last but not least, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is not the sole object in the world of lop-sided objects. Two churches in Germany have challenged her status as the world’s most inclined man-made construction.

Read another story from us: The Towers of Silence: Ancient reminders of an eerie Zoroastrian burial ritual

In 2010, however, the Guinness World Records had acknowledged the Capital Gate building in Abu Dhabi as the “World’s Furthest Leaning Man-made Tower”, as it has an 18-degree slope that is almost five times more than that of Pisa.

Stefan Andrews

Stefan is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to The Vintage News. He is a graduate in Literature. He also runs a blog – This City Knows.