"" Writer's Wanderings: Pisa, Italy

Friday, June 11, 2010

Pisa, Italy

Is there anyone on this planet who has not heard of the leaning tower of Pisa? Given the choice between spending our port day in Florence or taking a trip to see the famous bell tower, we chose the tower. After all, Florence will probably still be there years from now. Who knows if the tower will suddenly fall over?

The day was a bit overcast and gray but in a way that was good. The plaza where the cathedral and tower are located are done in a lot of white marble that has recently been cleaned and I can only imagine how blindingly bright it would have been if the sun were bouncing off of it.

Pisa’s tower was built to house the bells for the cathedral. The ground beneath the tower and surrounding buildings is made of mushy clay. The cathedral sags a bit but it is not as noticeable unless you sight down the wall and see the lines are not straight. The problem with the tower is that the base is so much smaller so that caused the tilt to worsen.

At one point it leaned about 13 feet but it was corrected a bit to about 10 feet. The leaning actually started before the tower was even finished. To compensate, the builders made a slight kink in the tower and if you look to one side of it, you can see a banana shape. People are allowed up in it for a fee as long as they don’t mind climbing all the steps.

The complex we were in had a cathedral, the bell tower, a baptistery, a hospital and a cemetery. As our guide put it, the area covered the hatch, match, patch and dispatch of life. The “hatch” was in the baptistery where in the early days of the church, baptism in the Catholic church was by immersion. The baptismal sat in the middle of a building with excellent acoustics. During a demonstration, a man hit several notes slowly and as they reverberated in the baptistery, the notes became a harmonious chord.

The “match” of life of course was in the weddings that took place in the cathedral. The cathedral was quite impressive inside. The pulpit was one of the most unusual pieces. It was designed by Giovanni Pisano in the early 14th century. Three women representing faith, hope and charity are the central support for the pulpit.

Continuing on, the “patch” is the hospital and the “dispatch” was the cemetery. Ah, once again we were stunned by the cleverness of a tour guide.

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