Will it soon be named the Perfectly Ordinary Tower of Pisa? Will the Tuscan city whose claim to fame is an off-kilter tower fall into obscurity without tourists keen to snap photos of themselves pretending to prop up the Tower of Pisa?
Those are the questions we’re asking ourselves with the news that the so-called Leaning Tower of Pisa is creeping upright.
The cause for the notorious tilt in what may be the world’s most famous architectural fail was a mystery for hundreds of years. Building on the now-famous bell tower began in the late 1100’s, and the 186-foot structure began to sink on one side even while under construction.
With the benefit of modern science and technology, experts now say it was due to an insufficient foundation in weak, unstable soil, which was also softer on the tower’s southern side. In a rare case of artisanal sloppiness in the Middle Ages, the builders just kept going, building the tower eight stories high while attempting to compensate for the southern tilt by making the floors shorter on the north side.
Nice try! Rather than leveling it up, they succeeded in making the bell tower of Pisa curved as well as leaning.
In the centuries since, the Leaning Tower of Pisa has become one of Italy’s most famous landmarks. Unlike Italy’s stunning architectural masterpieces, though, it has stood out for its massive–and increasing! Imperfection–a tilt of over 16 feet and a subsistence of 10 feet!
A 'Stand-Up' Tower
By 1990, its now-5.5 degree lean made officials fearful the whole structure would just topple over. So the Leaning Tower of Pisa was closed to the public–and a stabilization program began to save it from literal ruin.
11 years later, after work involving excavations, temporary steel cables, and draining ground water, stabilization work was complete. It was declared a success: straightening the tower by 15 whole inches. Shortly thereafter, the Leaning Tower of Pisa was pronounced stable, expected to ‘stand’ the test of time for at least a couple of hundred more years.
Cue the cheering – but the story’s not over yet.
Experts have now concluded that the Leaning Tower of Pisa is still ‘straightening up.’
Even after active stabilization ceased, the tower has continued to correct itself. Recently, with new technology, experts were able to confirm that the tower has straightened an additional 1.6 inches on its own since work ceased.
That seems tiny, and it is, but now the tower is ‘only’ just under 4 degrees off vertical.
And experts say they believe that the Leaning Tower of Pisa will one day straighten up completely!
But would a perfectly straight Tower of Pisa have the same allure for travelers? Only time will tell.
Would you go to visit a Tower of Pisa that wasn’t leaning? Luckily, there are a lot of other reasons to visit Tuscany and Italy even without the tale and evidence of botched construction!
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Image: CentralITAlliance/ Getty Images
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