Saturday, February 9, 2008

Pisa - a town built on shoddy craftsmanship

While not our favorite city (aside from the Field of Miracles, it's pretty much one long street vendor), we did enjoy the beautiful Duomo cathedral. It was built back in Pisa's hey day when Pisa was a superpower (around 1164 AD). The floor was inlaid with not only colored marble, but semi-precious stones. The nave was the longest in Christendom when it was built and the gray and white striped stones inside are made from recycled headstones. The Apse Mosaic shows Christ as the ruler of all - this is unique because it's influenced by Eastern Orthodox Christians with whom the Pisans traded. Pisa is also the home of Galileo Galilei who used to dangle things off the top of the tower as part of his experiments.

The bell tower is 200 ft tall, weights 14,000 tons, and currently leans at a 5 degree angle, 15 feet off the vertical axis. It was built over 200 years and started to lean almost immediately. During its construction 3 successive architects tried to correct the leaning problem. It leans because of the marshy, multi-layered, unstable soil and a shallow base to support it. 30 million dollars was spent in 1990 trying to stabilize it. As part of that attempt 600 tons of lead were sunk on the north side (the side opposite the lean) to act as a counterweight. It didn’t work.

The tower was neat, but the cathedral was much better.

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