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November 12, 2007

Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is about to lose its record as the most tilting building in the world, meaning that Pisa's tower will lose some of its iconic status:

The Guinness Book of World Records has ruled that a church steeple in Germany, not the famous leaning tower of Pisa, is the most tilted tower in the world.

The 25.7-metre steeple tilts at an angle of 5.07 degrees, while the tower of Pisa tilts at just 3.97 degrees, said Olaf Kuchenbecker, head of Guinness's German edition.

"When you lay photos of the two next to each other you can see it relatively clearly," Kuchenbecker said.

The new record, scheduled to appear next autumn in the 2009 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records, could strip the Pisa tower of its iconic status, Kuchenbecker said.

That the German bell tower is actually pretty ugly while the other is a quite glorious buildingm might mean that the tower in Pisa doesn't lose too many tourists. Which is a good thing, as it's just reopened after having millions spent on repairs.

One of Italy's most famous tourist attractions, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, has reopened for the first time in almost 12 years.

Bells rang out across Pisa to mark the tower's restoration.

One of the first visitors said the experience was "unbelievable". She said that after years of thinking that the tower was going to fall down, "you can't describe the sensation you have when you walk up the steps." 


It was closed in 1990 because it was in danger of falling over but after construction work costing millions, tourists can once again enter the 800-year-old tower.

To the naked eye, the 56-metre-high tower looks the same as it always has.

But in fact the lean has been corrected by 45 centimetres.

The leaning tower, begun more than 800 years ago, developed a tilt almost from the start because it was built on sandy foundations.

This lean has intrigued generations of admirers of medieval architecture, but in 1990 engineers said the white marble tower was so far out of perpendicular that it risked toppling over.

The tower was closed and an engineering plan to save it was worked out by an international committee. Work on digging out part of the shifting foundations and placing counterweights ended last summer.

A little more history of the leaning tower of Pisa:

Constructed in 1174, at a time when the Pisans were enjoying an era of military success, the LeaningTower of Pisa, located in Pisa’s Campo dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles) is famous not only because of its striking beauty but also because of its awkward geometry. It served as the bell tower of the equally impressive Cattedrale (Cathedral) and Battistero (Baptistry), and, as a result of the poor swampy soil beneath, has leaned almost since construction first started. Today, one side is five metres (16ft) closer to the ground than the other. Galileo used the tower for experiments to prove his theory of motion whilst he was chair of mathematics at the Università di Pisa (Pisa University) in 1589.

And if you can't get all the way to Pisa to see the tower, there's a half size replica near Chicago:

The Leaning Tower is a perennial stop for Roadsiders in the Chicago area, and only 15 minutes northeast of O'Hare Intl. Airport (and 10 minutes from the World's First Franchised McDonald's in Des Plaines). The Leaning Tower of Niles is, of course, a replica of Italy's Leaning Tower of Pisa. It is roughly half-sized -- 94 feet, vs. the authentic's 177 feet, and leans about 7'4" off plum (vs. Pisa's 15 foot tilt). But that hardly matters when you're standing across the street taking a picture. And the savings in overseas airfare and reduced risk of injury is worth considering.

America's Leaning Tower was built in 1934 (600 years after the original), and for many years has stood in front of the Tower YMCA. It was a utility tower, made from steel, concrete and precast stone, designed to store water. A plaque at its base says it was built to honor the outstanding scientist Galileo Galilei.

According to a July 1997 visitor, the attraction has been recently renovated and is "pretty neat with fountains and early Italian-style phone booth."

Just think of that, you lucky tourist you. Botu the leaning tower and the world's first McDonald's franchise in one afternoon!


And if you want to see the tower overtaking (or is that overleaning?) that of Pisa, play this video:

November 12, 2007 in History | Permalink


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