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Pass the Pisa Please!…..or The Twisted Tower?!

May 10, 2010
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While we were in Pisa we had fun making up diverse ways to hold up the tower. Our theoretical propping techniques were not different at all, really. There were people from all over the world doing the same thing as we. The piazza was populated with posing, pillar-propping Parisians and Pekingese. They pushed at the precariously positioned pillar with protruding pinkies, pointed purple parasols, and in Abby’s case, with pretty pink puckers. Like the alliteration?! 😉

The photos were fun, but I also found the history of the tower fascinating and enlightening. You can skip the history if you want to, but there are more of my musings in the midst and toward the end of this post.

What do you think? Any insights about foundations? 

 In this post:

BOLD FONT:HISTORY OF PISA 

Italics: Scripture references

Regular font: Melissa’s musings

History of the Tower of Pisa: (adapted from Wikipedia)

The tower is the campanile, or freestanding bell tower, of the cathedral of the Italian city of Pisa. It was a work of art, performed in three stages over a period of about 177 years. It is situated behind the Cathedral and is the third oldest structure in Pisa’s Cathedral Square after the Cathedral and the Baptistery. Although intended to stand vertically, the tower began leaning to the southeast soon after the onset of construction in 1173 due to a poorly laid foundation that has allowed the foundation to shift direction. Construction of the first floor of the white marble campanile began on August 9, 1173, a period of military success and prosperity. The tower began to sink after construction had progressed to the third 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 almost a century, because the Pisans were 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. In 1272, construction resumed under Giovanni di Simone, architect of the Camposanto. In an effort to compensate for the tilt, the engineers built upper floors with one side taller than the other. This made the tower begin to lean in the other direction. Because of this, the tower is actually curved. Construction was halted again in 1284, when the Pisans were defeated by the Genoans in the Battle of Meloria. The bell-chamber was not finally added until 1372. After a phase (1990–2001) of structural strengthening, the tower is currently undergoing gradual surface restoration, in order to repair visual damage, mostly corrosion and blackening.

As I was looking at some photos of our trip to Pisa a seed of a thought began to germinate. The “leaning tower” reminded me of Jesus’ teaching, specifically His teaching on the foolish man and the wise man in the New Testament book of Matthew, Chapter 7 Verses 13-29.

Here is the passage from a very contemporary version of the Bible called “The Message.” It is not the version that I normally read, but I’ll use it here for its illustrative purposes.
Matthew 7:13-29 (The Message)

 Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention. Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned. Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance— isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’ These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards. When Jesus concluded his address, the crowd burst into applause. They had never heard teaching like this. It was apparent that he was living everything he was saying—quite a contrast to their religion teachers! This was the best teaching they had ever heard.

I think that there are some striking parallels between the Tower of Pisa and Jesus’ teaching on “foundations.” The foundation of a building is of the utmost importance. Without a firm foundation, the building, however beautiful, will at least be tilted and perhaps even curved. Or might I say twisted? The Tower of Pisa was started in a period of “military success and prosperity” and should have been strong and straight. It should be most famous as a work of art, known for its beauty and endurance, but the “lean” of the tower is what attracts its millions of visitors. Shortcuts with foundations lead to disastrous consequences. Unless built on a well-laid, strong, stable and unflawed foundation, the building on top will be weak and faulty. It will be likely to topple.

Jesus says that He is the only true foundation and he uses other architectural illustrations in His teachings. He also says that He is the only true gate.

John 10:10 (The Message)

6-10Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.

Jesus also talks about another essential component of a building, a door.

“And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’”

It may be the way of the world, but I do not want to be famous for my foolish faultiness. With all I see in the world around me, I know that I need a foundation that is unchanging. Jesus is the only one that I have found. I want to build my life on Him, He whose name is FAITHFUL and TRUE.  Jesus is my foundation. My foundation is not flimsy; He is eternally firm. He says that He is the gate, the way, the truth and the life. He is faithful and true, unchanging, the same yesterday, today and forever. He, the Wise Master Builder, the Creator of the universe and every heart, says that He stands at the door of your heart and knocks. He made it, but with unmatched patience and humility The Carpenter stands outside the door that He made. He is waiting to be invited in. Do you hear Him knocking? He’s awaiting your invitation. How amazing is that?!

One Comment leave one →
  1. ksb08 permalink
    May 10, 2010 5:13 pm

    I just love Pisa. Some people go there and say, so what…it’s a tower and it leans but I think there is so much more to it. Seems like you looked a little deeper too. I just wish you had blue skies while there…but even so, it’s still an amazing place.

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