The Leaning Tower of Pisa


Pisa, in the middle of Tuscany, is home of one of the most famous towers in the world.  The Leaning Tower is unique because it has been leaning to one side since the Middle Ages. Apart from the Leaning Tower, Pisa’s cathedral square also includes a baptistery and a church. Built to symbolize Tuscany’s wealth, it attracts millions of visitors from around the world. In the past two decades, efforts have been made to restore the tower and save it from collapsing.

Construction work began in the 12th century.  When the first three storeys of the eight-storey building were finished engineers noticed that the building did not sink into its  3-metre deep foundation evenly. The soil underneath the building was made up of soft clay .

Construction was halted for over a century. Workers tried to strengthen the foundation of the building by putting more cement into it. When construction was resumed construction workers tried to compensate the slant by building the uppers storey taller on the side that was sinking in.

The 185 meter tall Leaning Tower of Pisa is made out of white marble. It weighs about 14 000 tons. Inside there are two spiral staircases that lead to the bell chamber. A total of seven bells, one for each note of the musical scale, were completed up to the beginning of the 16th century.

In the 1990s authorities closed the tower to visitors. It had reached an angle of 5 degrees. Engineers and restoration workers made efforts to stabilize the tower, which was sinking at 1.2 mm a year. In May 2001, the Leaning Tower of Pisa was reopened  to the public. Since then the tower has been under constant observation.  In 2008 tourism authorities announced that sinking had stopped and the tower was expected to be stable for the coming centuries. In 1989, the Leaning Tower of Pisa became a World Heritage Site.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Leaning Tower of Pisa - W. Lloyd MacKenzie, via Flickr @


Related Topics



  • angle = slant, bend
  • announce = to say officially
  • attract = pull towards, invite
  • authorities = people who are in control of an area
  • baptistery = building used to perform a ceremony in which water is poured on a person’s head; this makes them a member of the  Roman Catholic church
  • cathedral square = place with a church or other religious buildings
  • cement = grey powder , mixed with sand , stones and water to form a hard building material
  • century = a hundred years
  • chamber = room
  • clay = heavy, muddy earth, used to make  pots, bricks etc..
  • collapse = break down
  • compensate = make up for, balance
  • complete = finish
  • constant observation = watch carefully all the time
  • construction = building
  • decade = ten years
  • effort = attempt, try
  • engineer = person who plans, designs and builds houses, roads, bridges etc..
  • evenly = equally, regularly
  • expect = think, believe
  • foundation = basis; layer of cement and stones that is put under a building to support it
  • halt = stop
  • include = consist of
  • lean = bend over
  • marble = hard rock that becomes smooth when you polish it ; used for making buildings and floors
  • musical scale = the musical notes between the first and the last
  • notice = see for the first time
  • public = all the people
  • reopen = open up again
  • restoration = repair
  • restore = fix, repair
  • resume = here: start building again
  • sink = go down
  • slant = angle, tilt
  • soil = top layer of earth in which plants grow
  • spiral staircase = stairs that move upwards in a circle
  • stabilize = to become steady, so that it won’t collapse
  • stable = steady
  • storey = floor, level
  • strengthen = to make stronger, improve
  • symbolize = be a symbol of,  stand for something
  • Tuscany = area of north central Italy, famous for its wine and old cities
  • underneath = below
  • unique = only one of its kind
  • wealth = money, riches
  • World Heritage Site = place or building , that is thought to be special and worth saving