Tilt: The Skewed Tale of the Tower of Pisa – Nicholas Shrady

19 May

Yes, there is a book on the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  Kids, if there is a topic you can think of it then there is probably an author dying to write about it.  Now this person just needs a publisher and a goofball, like yours truly, to read it.  The Dewey Decimal System gets put in top gear and we’re off to the races.

This book was a fun and fast read.  It’s only 161 pages, after all.  Now there are other things to learn about the tower besides the whole leaning gambit but let’s start there, shall we?  When the tower was built, it was created in fits and starts.  They started in 1173 with money left for a bell tower or a campanile by a widow.  Then progress halts in 1178 with only three stories complete.  Then, get this, construction doesn’t start again until 1272.  That’s almost a hundred years of stalled work.  And I thought the construction on Crosstown was bad.  Sheesh.

They then build for six years before, you guessed it, stopping again in 1278.  By this time the Tower is leaning.  They spend twenty years looking at it with their necks tilted before they say “maybe we’d better take a look at that”.  The first of seventeen commissions is started to inspect the tilt in 1298.  Basically this group just agrees that it’s off kilter and call it a day.

The campanile is finished in 1370 and it is all kinds of kittywampus.  And over the years it continues on in this fashion for awhile before it starts to lean a bit more… and then it’s really slanted.  It’s like a very drunk girl at a very long party.  You’re watching her and wondering if she’s going to topple.  You hope she’s not but you continue watching in a mix of dread and fascination.

See how I titled my discount book for this picture? Am I killing you with my artistry? I thought so.

Anyway, as I mentioned there were 17 commissions.  In 1989 the Tower was closed to visitors but thanks to the work of the 17th investigation the Tower is now standing and safe to visit.  The Mister asked me just how safe it was.  Then he stopped and reconsidered.  He realized that I would be going up those stairs so it had to be safe.  Step ladders scare me so this fix has rendered the tower safe as milk (which, apparently, is not all that safe… but that’s a different blog).

Over the years there have been some famous people linked to the Leaning Tower such as Galileo who was rumored to have taught lessons on gravity by throwing things off the tower.  Then there is Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley and Lord Byron and their Pisan circle.  That basically boils down to the tower being flawed and therefore kind of romantic.

The part I found the most interesting was there was a rule made where at least two people have to climb up the tower at a time.  This was enacted when it became romantic to commit suicide by throwing yourself off the tower.  I guess they never heard of Jonestown.  There is definitely not always safety in numbers.

When visiting you schedule a half hour time slot.  You pay, stow your belongings and then do the ten minute-long hike up, spend ten minutes on top and then ten to descend.  I’m excited to climb those stairs as the Tower was closed in ’92.  It was a brilliant place to stop for a picnic.  You just knew that I was going to tie this post to food somehow, didn’t you?  I’ve got my priorities people and most of them involve cheese.


One Response to “Tilt: The Skewed Tale of the Tower of Pisa – Nicholas Shrady”


  1. Body by Italy « Trip Ahoy! - 2011/06/25

    […] dei Miracoli), the star of the show is the bell tower or as we know it, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. As I mentioned before, this was closed during our visit in ’92. It is now stable and safe to climb. You can also reward […]

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