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Is the Garisenda Tower Falling Down?

Is the Garisenda Tower Falling Down?

Similar to the renowned Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Garisenda Tower in Bologna, Italy, is experiencing an increasing tilt. In response, Italy is employing state-of-the-art technologies and engineering solutions to stabilize and preserve this lesser-known but historically significant structure. Advanced methods like laser scanning and computer modeling are being utilized to monitor the tower’s condition and inform ongoing preservation efforts, ensuring its safety and integrity for future generations.

A Lesser Known Tower

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The Garisenda Tower stands in the beautiful Italian city of Bologna, next to its big sister, the Asinelli Tower. Well-known to locals, this dramatic pair is relatively unknown compared to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

A Historic Feat

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The Garisenda and Asinelli Towers were built during the 1100s. That they are both still standing at 48m and 97m respectively is a testament to the architects and builders of the time. 

A Dramatic Lean

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The Garisenda Tower is more dramatic than the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Its tilt does mean that the tower has lost 12m of its original 60m – due to the foundations being in unstable soil.

14th-Century Precautions

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The loss of 12m of the tower was a calculated decision in the 14th century. Architect Giovanni Visconti added buttresses for stability, and the tower was also lowered to its current 48m due to fear of collapse. 

Defying Gravity

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Currently, the Tower’s slants at an angle of 4 degrees, narrowly out-tilting the Tower of Pisa’s 3.9 degrees. Tourists and locals alike marvel at the tower’s ability to keep gravity at bay over hundreds of years.

High Tech Solutions

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Efforts to save the tower are a modern mission. Advanced technologies such as laser-scanning and computer-modelling are used to assess the tower’s structural integrity and monitor changes.

Time for Action

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These tools have provided essential information about the tower’s condition, informing preservation efforts to ensure the tower’s future and visitor safety. The work on the Tower of Pisa is providing knowledge, experience and even the necessary equipment for the work.

A Lean Too Far

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The famous UNESCO heritage site Pisa Tower reached a worrisome 4.5 degrees before the 1993 work began. The 4-degree tilt of the Garisenda does mean that the risk of collapse is “more than 10,000 times higher” than allowed by regulations, according to

Familiar Intervention

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The equipment used during the work on the Tower of Pisa will be used again. After months of work to adapt the equipment that was originally used in Pisa, it will be put to use on the Garisenda Tower.  

Invisible Protection

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In 2001, a steel corset designed by architect Paolo Marconi was installed. It redistributes the tower’s weight and reinforces its foundations to bring stability. The corset consists of over 250 tons of steel and has minimal visual impact.

Structure vs. Nature

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Having stood for over 800 years, one can hardly call the Garisenda Tower or its sister, Asinelli, structurally weak. However, an external factor is affecting the integrity of these two medieval structures. A combination of soil, nature and gravity show that even the most impressive of architectural feats has to answer to these powerful forces.

Necessary Fixes

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The tower needs more than just work on the lean for preservation. Waterproofing treatments and drainage systems will reduce moisture infiltration and protect the tower’s masonry from decay. Landscaping around the base of the tower will prevent soil erosion and lower the risk of subsidence.

An Important Landmark

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Aside from the clear visual impact on the area, the towers hold cultural significance and have an historical legacy. The names Garisenda and Asinelli are believed to come from the two families that built them to show off their skills and power.

A Long Term Plan

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This $20 million preservation operation, using pylons and cables from the work to save Pisa’s Tower, will involve two steel structures and scaffolding. These will allow for repairs to the masonry and reduce strain on the base, giving the tower a promising future.

Multiple Benefits

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As well as saving the tower itself, these works will benefit the area. Firstly, it will mean the taller Asinelli Tower can safely re-open to visitors. Secondly, nearby streets will no longer have to be sealed off as they were in 2023.

Nestled in Bologna

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Bologna

Bologna is a stunning historic city in northern Italy. It is the capital of its area – and offers more than just towers – it is also home to the Fountain Of Neptune.

Success in Pisa

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The work to fix Pisa began in 1993 and took 8 years. Pisa now leans 0.5 degrees less; suggesting a promising outcome for the similar work in Bologna.

A Notable Marvel

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The Garisenda caught the eye of Dante, earning it several references in his Divine Comedy. It is also mentioned by Dickens and several other respected writers.

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