Eight hundred, fifty years ago, today…
The Leaning Tower of Pisa (torre pendente di Pisa…in Italian) is the campanile or freestanding bell tower of Pisa Cathedral. It is known for its nearly four-degree lean, the result of an unstable foundation. The tower is one of three structures in the Pisa’s Cathedral Square, which includes the cathedral and Pisa Baptistry. The tower has 296 or 294 steps. [The] seventh floor has two fewer steps on the north-facing staircase.
The tower began to lean during construction in the 12th century, due to soft ground, which could not properly support the structure’s weight. It worsened through the completion of construction in the 14th century. By 1990, the tilt had reached 5.5 degrees. The structure was stabilized by remedial work between 1993 and 2001, which reduced the tilt to 3.97 degrees.
Construction of the tower occurred in three stages over 199 years. On January 5, 1172, Donna Berta di Bernardo, a widow and resident of the house of dell’Opera di Santa Maria, bequeathed sixty soldi to the Opera Campanilis petrarum Sancte Marie. The sum was then used toward the purchase of a few stones which still form the base of the bell tower. On August 9, 1173, the foundations of the tower were laid. Work on the ground floor of the white marble campanile began on August 14 of the same year, during a period of military success and prosperity.
The tower began to sink after construction had progressed to the second floor in 1178. This was due to a mere three-meter foundation, set in weak, unstable subsoil, a design that was flawed from the beginning. Construction was subsequently halted for the better part of a century, as the Republic of Pisa was almost continually engaged in battles with Genoa, Lucca and Florence. This allowed time for the underlying soil to settle […], [otherwise], the tower would almost certainly have toppled.
There has been controversy surrounding the identity of the architect […]. For many years, the design was attributed to Guglielmo and Bonanno Pisano […]. A 2001 study seems to indicate Diotisalvi was the original architect, due to the time of construction and affinity with other Diotisalvi works, notably the bell tower of San Nicola and the Baptistery, both in Pisa.
Between 1589 and 1592, Galileo Galilei, who lived in Pisa at the time, is said to have dropped two cannonballs of different masses from the tower to demonstrate that their speed of descent was independent of their mass, in keeping with the law of free fall.
During World War II, the Allies suspected that the Germans were using the tower as an observation post. Leon Weckstein, a U.S. Army sergeant sent to confirm the presence of German troops in the tower, was impressed by the beauty of the cathedral, and its campanile and […] refrained from ordering an artillery strike, sparing it from destruction.
The tower has survived at least four strong earthquakes since 1280. A 2018 engineering investigation concluded that the tower withstood the tremors because of dynamic soil-structure interaction. [The] height and stiffness of the tower, combined with the softness of the foundation soil, influences the tower’s vibrational characteristics in such a way that it does not resonate with earthquake ground motion. The same soft soil, that caused the leaning and brought the tower to the verge of collapse, helped it survive.
***The ceremony, for the 850th anniversary of the foundation of the Tower of Pisa, was started, today and runs all year to August 9, 2024.
850th Anniversary (Turismo.Pisa.it)
The Leaning Tower Of Pisa Was Once Tilting Dangerously (CNN/Sharon Braithwaite/August 9, 2023)
June 14 was a banner day for the countries of France, Lithuania and Poland. Except for reading the words, we, today, have no clue what these people went through. ~Vic
Paris started mobilizing for war in September 1939 when Nazi Germany, and their allied Soviet Union, according to the Ribbentrop-Molotov Treaty, invaded Poland. […] the war seemed far away until May 10, 1940, when the Germans attacked France and quickly defeated the French army. The French government departed Paris on June 10 and the Germans occupied the city on June 14.
In the spring of 1939, war with Germany already seemed inevitable. On March 10, the city began to distribute gas masks to civilians and on March 19, signs were posted guiding Parisians to the nearest shelters. On August 31, anticipating bombardment, the French government began to evacuate 30,000 children out of the city […]. On September 1, news reached Paris that Germany had invaded Poland, and France, as expected, promptly declared war on Germany. […] in February 1940, ration cards for food were issued [..].
The French defense plan was purely passive, waiting for the Germans to attack. After eight months of relative calm, […] the Germans struck France on May 10, 1940, bypassing the Maginot Line and slipping through the Ardennes. On June 3, the Germans bombed Paris and its suburbs for the first time […]. On June 8, the sound of distant artillery fire could be heard in the capital. On 10 June, the French government fled Paris […]. On June 12, the French government, in Tours, declared Paris to be an open city [and] that there would be no resistance. At 5:30 in the morning of June 14, the first German advance guard entered the city […]. By the end of the afternoon, the Germans had hung a swastika flag at the Arc de Triomphe […].
The Soviet Union issued an ultimatum to Lithuania before midnight of June 14, 1940. The Soviets, using a formal pretext, demanded to allow an unspecified number of Soviet soldiers to enter the Lithuanian territory and to form a new pro-Soviet government […]. The ultimatum and subsequent incorporation of Lithuania into the Soviet Union stemmed from the division of Eastern Europe into the German and Russian spheres of influence in the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939. Lithuania, along with Latvia and Estonia, fell into the Russian sphere. Despite the threat to the independence, Lithuanian authorities did little to plan for contingencies and were unprepared for the ultimatum. With Soviet troops already stationed in the country according to the Mutual Assistance Treaty, it was impossible to mount effective military resistance. On June 15, Lithuania unconditionally accepted the ultimatum and lost its independence.
The first mass transport of prisoners by Nazi Germany to Auschwitz Concentration Camp was organized in occupied Poland on June 14, 1940, during World War II. The transport departed from the southern Polish city of Tarnów and, consisted of 728 Poles and 20 Polish Jews. They were dubbed ‘political prisoners’ and members of the Polish resistance. Most were Catholics, since the mass deportations of Jews had not yet begun. All were sent to Auschwitz by the German Security Police. They were transported there from a regular prison in Tarnów where they had been incarcerated as enemies of the Nazi regime. Numbers were tattooed on the prisoners’ arms in the order of their arrival […]. These inmates were assigned the numbers 31 through 758, with numbers 1 through 30 having been reserved for a group of German criminals who were brought to Auschwitz from Sachsenhausen on May 20 and became the first Auschwitz kapos.