Yes, I held the camera straight! :-)

One morning, the sky was grey, so we decided to go to Pisa, where some of us hadn’t yet been. We actually met heavy rain on our way, but the sky cleared up soon after our arrival.

Yes, the tower is leaning… more or less visible, depending on from where you take your photos. (As stated, the top picture of the bottom floor was taken holding the camera straight.) 

The tower, as all the buildings on what is referred to as the Piazza dei Miracoli (or Piazza dei Duomo) was built on unstable sand. It has its origins from the 12th century and started to lean rather soon, but only to a rather limited degree. More levels were added and with some of them one tried to correct the leaning, which actually means that if you look closer, the tower has a slight banana shape. The leaning process continued during the centuries, until it was rather recently (1990-2001) stopped and the tilt actually was partially corrected. It had reached more than 5 degrees and is now reduced to slightly less than 4 degrees. (I guess there was no wish from the local authorities to reduce the leaning to zero.) Here are some details from the outside (tilting the camera by 4 degrees).

You must of course go to the top – 296 steps on one side, 294 on the other. The bell chamber has seven bells, one for each note of the major scale. You have a nice view of the other buildings on the Piazza dei Miracoli.  
The construction of the “Duomo”, the cathedral, started during the 11th century, some 100 years before its bell tower. Although some alterations have occurred over the centuries (a serious fire in 1595), a lot is “original”. Marble is of course used (we are close to Carrara).

A closer look on the early 14th century pulpit.

Another building on the Piazza is the 12th century Baptistery (actually also leaning, but only by 0.6 degrees). Its lower parts are in Romanesque, the higher in Gothic style. Not much decoration inside, but again you find a beautiful 13th century pulpit. The statue of John the Baptist is by the 20th century artist Italo Griselli.

A fourth building, also from the 12th century, is the Campo Santo (Holy Field), so named as it’s said to have been built around a shipload of sacred soil from Golgotha. Over one of the entrances is a 14th century Gothic tabernacle. Basically it’s a cemetery, with a lot of ancient graves and sarcophagi. The walls were covered by frescoes, which were greatly destroyed in 1944 by a fire caused by a fragment from an Allied raid. Restoration work is in progress.

There is a lot more to be seen in Pisa, a city with a very long history - during centuries an important port at the junction of the – then navigable - Arno River (which you also meet in Florence) and the smaller Serchio River, struggling with Genoa, Venice… to be the most influential power in what later became Italy. We didn’t have the time for a more complete tour, but did some walking around in our research for eating and drinking places.  



Sid Joshi said...

Lovely post Peter...I was so close to it but missed seeing it a few years back. Such a missed opportunity...

Maya said...

So, you can go up the tower again? I did it in '88, but heard they no longer let people go up!

PeterParis said...

> Maya Yes, once the tilting problem had been solved (it took a few years), you are again allowed.:-)

Anonymous said...

Just the thought of that tower being made entirely of marble!
Thank you, M. Peter for such a wonderful tour.

Happy to know you had such a great time with your family in that beautiful country.

Studio at the Farm said...

SUPER post, Peter!!! Your photos are, as always. wonderful, as well as all the little pieces of information. I could see that banana shape of the tower. And I love all the photos you took of the magnificent stone carvings on it. I am overwhelmed! MUST see it for real some day!

Thérèse said...

Tu remues de bons souvenirs!

claude said...

Magnifique publication, Peter, comme d'habitude d'ailleurs !
Merci pour cette très belle visite.