Pisa in Tuscany: The Leaning Tower
Pisa, Etruscans, Italy, Tuscany,
Etruscans were the inhabitants of Etruria, now Tuscany, in central Italy. From ancient times their cities, forming a political association, dominated the region but after 396 B.C. they were absorbed by the Romans. Their non-Indo-European language is not related to any known language and is still untranslated.
Pisa in Tuscany
Pisa is situated in west central Italy, in Tuscany, on the River Arno. With a population approaching 100,000 it is the provincial capital of the region with a commercial and manufacturing economy. Pisa is twinned with nine towns or sister cities and attracts thousands of visitors each year. It is famous for its old churches and museums, the faculties of its ancient university and the many personalities who have been associated with the city.
The geographical and natural environment in which Pisa sprang up and developed was very different from that of today. It held wide maritime and commercial influence as a strategic transit and trading port between the Christian and Muslim worlds. Its centuries old struggle for political, artistic and cultural survival is commented and documented from early to modern times.
Ancient writings, major archaeological and other discoveries suggest that Pisa was an Etruscan city. While there remains debate about its true origins there is evidence of a Pisan community with a hierarchical society divided into groups, with prominent aristocratic elites whose power and wealth presumably derived from sea trade and perhaps piracy.
Attacked by armed bands and invading armies and scourged by famine and epidemic when a great many large and small cities suffered sieges, sacking and destruction, Pisa’s stability, wealth and enormous sea and land power declined to almost ruin. Religious and political alliances were also a major influence in the decline of Pisa’s ancient history.
The Leaning Tower
A major attraction is the Leaning Tower, a construction which began in 1172 and completed in three phases. Described as a masterpiece of medieval architecture, the free standing ornate, circular white marble bell tower is the third oldest city structure after the magnificent domed cathedral and its impressive baptistry. Situated in what is known as the Miracles Square, the Piazza dei Miracoli is named for its unique and celebrated architecture contained within the city walls. An urban landscape it serves for public and other city events.
Observed as tilting even more from the perpendicular, the famous bell tower with almost 300 steps to the top was closed for over ten years. A multinational task force of engineers, mathematicians and historians worked on vast plans to save the structure from further peril caused by the age known problems of soil subsidence, increasing structural weakness and material degradation. On 15 December 2001 the Leaning Tower was re-opened with great ceremony to an enthusiastic public who continue to visit Miracles Square.
In 1987 the Leaning Tower was declared as part of the Piazza dei Miracoli UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes the neighbouring Cathedral Santa Maria Maggiore, the Baptistry and “monumental cemetery” of Campo Santo.
Ita Marguet, March 2009
Note: Acknowledgement is given to sources used in preparation of this text. It follows a visit to Italy including the UNESCO World Heritage Site in May 2008.