How many of you growing up always had the desire to see the Wonders of the World? I always wanted to see the Taj Mahal but never got there. I have seen two others though, one being the Great Wall of China. The other is the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I was fortunate to have a job teaching Italian and to have initiated the first Italian Exchange with an Italian High School in Florence, Liceo Gramsci, and an American High School, Newton North High School back in 1981. During my tenure I escorted many of my Italian students to Florence to live with Florentine families for a month and in return, the Florentine students returned to Newton to visit the Boston area for a month. Being in Tuscany afforded us to visit Pisa which was only an hour away by train.
Seeing the Tower, which is actually the bell tower to the cathedral, for the first time was a jaw dropping experience. I’ve been lucky to see it several times with my students who have the energy and adventure to climb the close to 300 steps to the seventh floor.
The construction of the Tower covered a span of almost 200 years. It began in 1173 and was abandoned when it had reached the third story because of the sinking foundation in the soft ground which caused it to tilt. The construction didn’t begin again until a century later by Giovanni di Simone who was also the architect of the beautiful Cemetery or Camposanto in Pisa. (We will see a fresco from inside that structure later on in the blog.). The last story or loggia, the 7th, was finished in 1319 by Tommaso di Andrea Pisano.
The bell story was built towards the middle of the 14th century. There are seven bells representing one for each note of the musical major scale. (Note 1). Giovanni Pisano was a master builder, who together with Giovanni di Simone, was very involved in the completion of the Tower. In 1990 the tower was closed to the public due to stabilization issues and was reopened to the public in late 2001 and declared stable for 300 years. In 2008 it was announced that the Tower had stopped moving for the first time in history.
The Monumental Cemetery, which was begun at the end of the 13th century, took successive centuries to complete. It deserves visiting especially for its frescoes and sculptures, most of which were destroyed by fire after the last war. They have been, however, completely restored, along with the sculptures. The detail I have chosen to depict is a panel from “The Triumph of Death”, a large composition which is divided into various scenes. Here is the scene called “The Cavalcade.”.
For those of you who have been to Piazza dei Miracoli, it is hard to escape the “9,000” tourists stands just loaded with little statues of the Leaning Tower and other “stuff”. I didn’t escape and still have my little replica from years gone by.
Probably the funniest thing that most tourists do is to take photos trying to hold the Tower up with their hands. I thought this one was a pretty interesting one of trying to kick it down!
I guess the Taj Mahal will remain on my bucket list for a while. For now, I hope you have enjoyed a peak at this Wonder of the World. Thanks to my students from Newton North High School. Couldn’t have had the experience without you.
Just a reminder that every day I get to see a Wonder of the World working with the Thasc artists on our blog: preciousartbypreciouspeople.org.
Join us Tuesday through Saturday.
See you Thursday.
Note 1. “Torre Pendente”, Lucca turismo. March 19, 2008.