It’s unclear who the original designer was, but during the three phases of construction at least five prominent Italian architects took part in trying to straighten the 56.67 m (185.93 ft.) tall Romanesque tower as it continued to tilt with each new tier.
The “Big Lean” remained an 800-year-old mystery until John Burland, an English geotechnical engineer, renowned soil mechanics expert and professor at Imperial College London, arrived on the scene in 2003 and discovered the cause: a fluctuating underground water table that perched higher on the tower’s north side, causing the tower’s characteristic slant to the south.
Burland, introduced a new drainage system beneath the north side of the square allowing the water underneath to flow away from the tower’s base. Problem solved.
For his efforts in preventing the Leaning Tower of Pisa, one of the jewels of this UNESCO World Heritage site, from toppling over, Prof. Burland was awarded the Knight Commander of the Royal Order of Francis I by the Duke of Castro.
The Leaning Tower is undoubtedly Pisa’s most recognizable image and one of its main attractions. Despite its prominent 17 feet off vertical tilt, it’s still standing after all these years.
Feel free to climb the spiral staircase of 297 steps up to where the tower’s seven bells hang.
Tom is a veteran print-broadcast journalist who resides in the Colli Euganei (Euganean Hills) in the province of Padova in the Veneto region of northestern Italy. He hosts the eclectic travel/foodie/photography blog The Palladian Traveler.com, is a regular contributor to Los Angeles-based TravelingBoy.com, and is a member of the International Travel Writers Alliance. Feel free to follow Tom as he “meanders along the cobblestone to somewhere.”