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Leaning Tower in Italy in Danger of Collapse

Bologna's Garisenda tower, a leaning tower since the 12th century, faces a precarious future
Bologna’s Garisenda Tower, a leaning tower built in the 12th century, faces a precarious future. Credit: Alessandro / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Italy’s iconic Garisenda Tower, a leaning wonder standing tall for almost a millennium, might be facing its final days. After recent investigations, the city is taking serious steps to prepare for the possible sudden collapse of this historic tower that has been a part of the Bologna skyline since the 12th century.

A sturdy metal barrier will be set up to safeguard the surroundings and people. This barrier aims to limit the spread of debris in case of a collapse, protect nearby buildings, and keep people safe by preventing access to the restricted area, as announced by the city council.

Potential collapse report

A detailed 27-page report by the scientific committee that has overseen the site since 2019 has raised a “high alert” for the monument, emphasizing that operating in or around the tower is deemed unsafe unless under the umbrella of a civil protection plan.

Recent observations indicate an alarming and accelerated deterioration at the tower’s base, marked by intense compression and the gradual breakdown of the stone covering. Cracks are also appearing in the brick above. Ongoing consolidation efforts have been halted, and a restricted zone will promptly be established.

More details about the leaning tower

The Garisenda Tower, one of Bologna’s famed Two Towers, which dominate the city center, stands at 48 meters (158 feet) and dates back to the 12th century.

During that time, Bologna resembled a mini Manhattan with numerous towers, each built by local families striving to surpass the height of the others. Only a few of these towers remain, many having been transformed into regular houses with their tops removed.

The Garisenda Tower, leaning at a slight angle of four degrees, is just a tad more upright than the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which tilts at five degrees. Its incline was already noticeable in the early 14th century when Dante wrote Inferno, vividly capturing the sensation of gazing at the Garisenda’s leaning side.

Over the years, the tower underwent shortening and now stands in the city center alongside the Asinelli, a tower twice its height that tourists could ascend until last month.

Area restricted in October

In October, Mayor Matteo Lepore ordered the area surrounding the towers to be restricted, initially for research purposes rather than immediate safety concerns.

Acoustic sensors were strategically placed to monitor the sounds of cracking and creaking. At the same time, pendulums were installed in both towers to track movement and assess if regular “oscillation” exceeded a specific limit.

Recent findings from this research reveal increased compression at the tower’s base and a noteworthy shift in the lean, rotating from an easterly or southeasterly direction to the south. According to a city council spokesperson, these conditions have steadily worsened since July.

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