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Picture Perfect Pisa

sunny 18 °C

As our Silk Road experience nears its end we couldn't resist revisiting Pisa. No matter how many times we have seen the Cathedral and its alarmingly tilted bell tower we are still awed by its beauty...


Pisa cathedral is unusual because it was deliberately built outside the city walls starting in 1063 in order to show the Venetians, Florencians and Luccans that the Pisans were not scared of their regional rivals. It is also unusual for the numerous Islamic elements included because the Pisan merchants traded with the Byzantines in Constantinople – the end of the Silk Road and one of the centres of Islamic power. This bronze sphinx is one of the many Islamic features of the cathedral...


The baptistery is a particularly beautiful structure.


Imagine being baptised in this font!...


Impressive cathedrals were used as symbols of wealth and power in the middle ages and each of the feudal states sought to build the biggest and most beautiful. Pisa cathedral is certainly spectacular though whether it is the best – who knows? The apse is truly impressive...


However, the Campanile, the cathedral's most famous structure, is certainly the most unique feature because of its alarming lean. No matter what angle you view the tower it is difficult to believe that it isn't about to topple...


The bell tower was started in 1173 but it took 199 years to complete because of wars and construction problems. The foundations were laid in soft soil and 5 years after construction began, when only two floors were finished, the whole thing began to sink. Luckily for the tower, and for us, Pisa then became involved in almost continuous wars with its neighbours for half a century that gave time for the foundations to settle.

It wasn't until 1272, that construction fully resumed and, in an effort to compensate for the tilt, the engineers built upper floors with one side taller than the other. Because of this, the tower is curved. Then there was another war and construction was halted again in 1284. The seventh floor was completed in 1319 and the bell-chamber was finally added in 1372....


Over the next 600 years the tower gradually tilted further and further until at the end of the last century it was believed to be on the point of falling. Then a miracle, (and some very strong steel cables), held it up until the foundations could be reinforced. It should be good for another 200 years – but it still looks precarious.

That's it for our time following the Silk Road from Uzbekistan to France and Italy. Next stop - England for some family time. Maybe we will discover some fascinating history there?

Posted by Hawkson 12:15 Archived in Italy

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Does it lean to the right or the left? At least the grass is green and the sky is blue. Beautiful.

by Janet

Knew about the cables but not the curve and the taller sides to compensate for the tilt. I agree that it still looks precarious. That really is some lean well caught by your camera.

by R and B

I don't know about being baptized in that powerful and beautiful nave. I don't know whether it would have made me more of a saint or sinner.

Such interesting history about the tower and its durability and mankind's incredible minds that conpensated for everything.

by Sue Fitzwilson

Great day for photographing. The white stone against the blue sky makes a fine effect. But what a lean. Unsettling every time.

by Tom

What a wonderful picture of the two buildings together. I have only seen the tower itself and I love the contrast of the two.

by Keith

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