Today in History: The Leaning Tower of Pisa Reopens and Still Leans After Eleven Years of Repairs

Today in History: The Leaning Tower of Pisa Reopens and Still Leans After Eleven Years of Repairs

by M.C. Millman

In Mid-December, 2001, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, known as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, reopened to the public after eleven years, and $27 million was spent stabilizing it to prevent collapse.

The repairs were pronounced a success, as 16-17 inches were subtracted from the tilt of the famous tourist attraction known for its four-degree lean, a result of its unstable foundation.

The tower was constructed in the 12th century in Pisa, Italy, fifty miles from Florence. Before the construction was even finished, the tower's foundation had already begun to sink into the soft, marshy ground, causing the building to lean to one side. The top stories were made slightly taller on one side to compensate for the lean, but the weight of the extra masonry made the tower sink even more. The 190-foot-high building was finished in 1360 and soon became the city's most famous tourist attraction, due to its dramatic fifteen-foot lean.

The tower was closed for repairs in 1990, the year after a million people paid the famous tourist attraction a visit. Visitors would climb the 293 steps to the top to view Campo dei Miracoli outside.

The repairs were done out of concern that after all those centuries, the building would truly collapse if left unattended. Fourteen archeologists, architects, and soil experts worked to figure out a way to lessen the lean and preserve the ancient structure.

By 2001, the engineers succeeded in doing exactly that by digging out dirt from underneath the foundations. 

The repairs are not permanent, though. It is predicted that it will take 300 years for the Leaning Tower of Pisa to return to its 1990 position - if the structure lasts that long. 

In the meantime, on Wednesday, December 6, tourists were put on high alert regarding the possible collapse of the tower, and the local government installed a cordon with rockfall protection nets to keep tourists at a distance.

According to CNN,  a spokesperson said the Tower of Pisa isn't actually about to collapse but that officials were just preparing for the worst-case scenario despite Italian experts issuing a 27-page report detailing its structural risks. The spokesperson went on to say,  "We're acting as if it's about to collapse, but nobody knows when that could be – it could be three months, ten years, or twenty years."

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