The Tower, originally designed to be an elaborate free-standing tower bell ("campanile" in Italian), ended up being a marvelous engineering wonder that has been fighting gravity for almost a millennia.
Around the year 1000 Pisa was one of the four Republics in Italy to rule over the Mediterranean Sea.
Pisa was powerful and prosperous and its people had high ambitions. They were sailing and trading and they were often engaging in battle with the other nearby State-cities.
The entire complex of the Square of Miracles was built to showcase the strength and prosperity of the city.
The Tower was part of this grandiose plan and it was built to accommodate the seven bells for the nearby Cathedral (Duomo di Pisa).
The Square of Miracles was built to showcase the strength and prosperity of Pisa.
Tower bells are a characteristic feature of Catholic Churches and their main function is (as the name suggests) to host ceremonial bells.
With its top point standing at less than 60m, the Tower of Pisa was not built to beat any record.
Today, the tallest bell tower in the World is the "Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower", measuring 110m. This tower is anyway a modern building as it was constructed between 1900 and 1908. At the time of construction of the Tower of Pisa, bell towers used to be much shorter.
Seven bells are hosted on the very top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, at over 50m above the ground:
- 1st bell: L'Assunta, ("B" or "Si") cast in 1654 by Giovanni Pietro Orlandi - weight 3,620 kg (7,981 lb)
- 2nd bell: Il Crocifisso, ("C#" or "Do#") cast in 1572 by Vincenzo Possenti - weight 2,462 kg (5,428 lb)
- 3rd bell: San Ranieri, ("D#" or "Re#") cast in 1719–1721 by Giovanni Andrea Moreni - weight 1,448 kg (3,192 lb)
- 4th bell: La Terza (1st small one), ("Bb" or "Sib") cast in 1473 - weight 300 kg (661 lb)
- 5th bell: La Pasquereccia or La Giustizia, ("G#" or "Sol#") cast in 1262 by Lotteringo - weight 1,014 kg (2,235 lb)
- 6th bell: Il Vespruccio (2nd small one), ("E" or "Mi") cast in the 14th century and again in 1501 by Nicola di Jacopo - weight 1,000 kg (2,205 lb)
- 7th bell: Dal Pozzo, ("G" or "Sol") cast in 1606 and again in 2004 - weight 652 kg (1,437 lb)
The total weight of the bells amounts to over 10 metrics tons (about 23150 lb).
Keep in mind that the total weight of the monument is estimated to be around 14500 metric tons, therefore the bells sitting on its very top amount to a mere 0.1% of the total weight.
The bells were originally operated by ropes and they were all swinging. However, at some point in time, their use was forbidden due to the precarious condition of equilibrium of the tower.
Today the bells are operated by electromagnetic hammers. These hammers hit the bells to produce sound without the need for the bells to move. This produces no sway in the Tower and it is considered to be safe.
A curious fact: the 5th bell is the one that rings on Easter day and it used to stand on top of another building in Pisa, where it was announcing the execution of criminals and traitors, therefore its original name "The Justice" (La Giustizia).