Author(s): Nicholas Shrady
The campanile or bell tower in Pisa's Campo dei Miracoli would be one of the most famous and attractive buildings in the world even if it stood straight and true. The fact that it settled into a distinctive - and eventually alarming - tilt soon after its construction has made the tower an icon. Now the bell tower is instantly recognisable shorthand not just for Pisa but for Italy as a whole. Originally designed as a display of wealth and power in Pisa's heyday, successive generations have used it as a symbol to their own ends. For Percy Bysshe Shelley and his Pisan circle it had the romantic power of a ruin; during the Second World War it was a suspected enemy hideout, and only very narrowly escaped being bombed. Today, having been saved from dramatic collapse by a British soil mechanic, it is an architectural phenomenon and tourist money-spinner. In a hugely entertaining and informative narrative that features such vibrant characters as Dante, Machiavelli, Galileo and Il Duce, Nicholas Shrady finally reveals the secret history of the world's most famous architectural oddity.