The Famous Leaning Tower of Pisa Reopens - 12/15/2001

World History |

Italy's Leaning Tower of Pisa reopens to the public after a group of specialists spent 11 years and an estimated $27 million to strengthen the tower without tampering with its celebrated tilt on this same day in 2001.The construction on the bell tower for the cathedral of Pisa, which is a bustling trade center and located on the Arno River in western Italy, some 50 miles from Florence, began in the 12th century. 

During the construction, the tower's foundation started to sink into the delicate, mucky ground, making it lean to one side. Realizing that the tower was leaning, the builders attempted to adjust for the incline by making the top stories a little bit taller on one side, yet the additional brickwork required just made the tower sink further. When it was finished in 1360, engineers said it was a wonder it did not crashed down completely.

In addition, both the cathedral and the attached baptistery leaned slightly, but it was the Torre Pendente di Pisa, which is popularly known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa that turned to be the center of attraction for tourist who visited the city every year.

By the twentieth century, the 190-foot-high white marble tower had leaned 15 feet off the original structure. Before the tower was shut down for renovation in 1990, a total number of 1 million people had visited the tower, climbing its 293 weathered steps to the top and looking out over the green Campo dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles) outside. Dreading it was going to collapse, authorities assigned a group of 14 archeologists, engineers and soil experts to find how to make if not all, but some of the tilt disappear.

In 1994, the tower nearly collapsed when engineers tried to reduce its leaning however, they finally found a way to reduce the tilt between 16 and 17 inches by removing earth from beneath the foundation. On December 15, 2001, the tower reopened as engineers projected that it would take another 300 years before the Tower return to its former position. Until this present day, access to the tower has been restricted to guided tours even though visitors can still be seen outside the building as they try their own version of the classic pose of pretending to hold it up.

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Nancy Reyes

Senior Writer

One of our top senior writers, Nancy came to us wanting to break away from the politics that comes with major news corporations. She leads our team of historical writers in creating the best engaging content out there that keeps our readers coming back for more. She is an enthusiast of all things medieval and has been a member of her renaissance fair group for 15 years. She received her degree in International Relations from the University of Southern California and hopes to one day travel the world.