25 Leaning Tower Of Pisa Facts That Capture Its Iconic Appeal

Published March 9, 2018
Updated October 25, 2023

These facts about the Leaning Tower of Pisa reveal everything there is to know about the world's most famous architectural mistake.

Leaning Tower Of Pisa Facts
No one knows for sure who first designed it. Experts have tossed around at least three different candidates.Wikimedia Commons

Leaning Tower
The money to build the tower came from pillaging. After Pisans attacked and looted the then-Muslim city of Palermo, Sicily in 1063, they used the stolen riches to fund the tower.Pexels

Leaning Tower From Below
It wasn't finished until 199 years after work began. Construction commenced in 1173 and didn't end until 1372.Pexels

Tilting Tower At Pisa
The tower began leaning long before it was even finished. The tilt began when builders were still working on the second floor in 1178.Library of Congress

Tourists Around Leaning Tower
The tower leans because it was built on soft, marshy terrain. The loose, waterlogged sediment could not fully support the massive stone structure.Michael Furdyk/Flickr

Sunlight On Leaning Tower
Once builders noticed the tilt, construction stopped for nearly 100 years. They stopped in 1178 and didn't resume until 1272.Pexels

Middle Of Leaning Tower
The long break in construction likely saved the tower from total collapse. During the rest, the stone compressed the terrain, making it firmer.PublicDomainPictures.net

Old Photo Of Leaning Tower
After resuming, builders tried to compensate by making the remaining floors shorter on one side. It didn't work.J.F. Jarvis/Library of Congress

People Walking Near Leaning Tower
It used to lean the other way. Overcompensation during the second phase of construction shifted the center of the gravity and the tilt went from northward to southward.Deensel/Flickr

Blocks Supporting Leaning Tower
Millions were then spent trying to get it to lean back in its original direction. Between 1990 and 2001, the tower was closed so that workers could remove soil to correct the worsening southward lean, causing the tower to lean northward again.Wikimedia Commons

Leaning Tower Of Pisa Facts Photo
They only started regularly measuring its lean fairly recently. In 1911, regular measurements commenced, and then only annually.Library of Congress

Tourists Around The Tower
The lean got so bad by 1964 that the tilted side was 17 feet off center. The desperate government then put out an open call for suggestions on fixing it.BOMBMAN/Flickr

Base Of Leaning Tower
In 1995, engineers froze the ground around the tower with liquid nitrogen in hopes of stabilizing the terrain. It didn't work and the plan, which also involved installing underground anchors, was quickly aborted.Ed Webster/Flickr

Piazza Dei Miracoli
It's just one part of a cathedral complex called Piazza Dei Miracoli. This holy site includes half a dozen other ornate church buildings.Ivan Borisov/Flickr

San Michele Tower
It isn't the only leaning tower in Pisa. The local terrain caused several other nearby church bell towers to tilt (including the tower of San Michele degli Scalzi, pictured), but not quite enough to look good on a postcard.Wikimedia Commons

Leaning Towers
There are actually dozens of other leaning towers around the world. Some were made to lean, others weren't, and none are as famous as the one in Pisa (including the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Iraq, left, and Capital Gate in Abu Dhabi, right).Wikimedia Commons

Suurhusen Tower
The Leaning Tower of Pisa isn't the world's most tilted tower. The church tower in Suurhusen, Germany has a larger lean, as do several other towers that were built to lean.Wikimedia Commons

Galileo Illustration
Renowned scientist Galileo was baptized in the church complex of which the Leaning Tower is part. Legend says that he developed his ideas about pendulums by swinging lanterns in the chapel.Wikimedia Commons

Galileo Painting
Galileo may have used the tower for some of his most important experiments. Stories say that he dropped cannonballs and feathers from the tower to show that objects of different weights fall equally quickly, but many now claim the story is apocryphal.Wikimedia Commons

Benito Mussolini Portrait
Mussolini nearly wrecked it. Believing a leaning tower wasn't appropriate in a fascist state, he tried to correct things by having concrete poured into the foundation in 1934, but that only made the tilt worse.Wikimedia Commons

Leon Weckstein
One man saved it from destruction during World War II. U.S. Army Sergeant Leon Weckstein (center) came very close to giving the order to blow the tower, a suspected Nazi stronghold, but couldn't bring himself to destroy such beauty.Leonweckstein.com

Leaning Tower Of Pisa Bell
Despite the lean, seven massive bells have been installed at the very top. The largest, at 3.5 tons, is about one and a half times the weight of a rhinoceros.Wikimedia Commons

Tourists At Top Of Tower
Tourists are allowed to climb to the top. Despite the hazards of the lean, ticket-holders can walk all the way up the stairs to the tower's highest point.Wikimedia Commons

Leaning Tower Of Pisa Facts Photograph
The tower appeared to stop tilting any further in 2008. Thanks to the restorations started in the 1990s, no additional leaning has been detected.Ed Webster/Flickr

Facts About Leaning Tower Of Pisa
Experts can't agree on whether its lean will ever cause it to topple. There have been precarious moments but frequent restorations have been successful.Pexels

Italy was famous for its architecture long before many of those buildings became ruins. This is especially true in northern Italy where first the Romans then the Catholic Church have gone all-out to build temples, cathedrals, and other structures that have drawn crowds of tourists for centuries.

It's ironic then that in a field with such stiff competition, arguably the most famous piece of architecture in the region is the one they messed up: the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

From the earliest days of its construction in the 12th century, the campanile at the Piazza dei Miracoli in Pisa, Italy was destined to be known as the Leaning Tower. To find out why that tilt first started and discover some more of the most incredible Leaning Tower of Pisa facts, check out the gallery above.


After this look at these interesting Leaning Tower of Pisa facts, check out the craziest facts about the Eiffel Tower. Then, discover some of the most interesting facts you'll ever read.

author
Richard Stockton
author
Richard Stockton is a freelance science and technology writer from Sacramento, California.
editor
John Kuroski
editor
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.