The Leaning Tower of Pisa is ‘stable’ at 850 years old

Italy’s iconic Leaning Tower of Pisa is no longer at risk of toppling over, as the structure marks its 850th birthday.

On August 9, 1173, the first stone of what would become the Leaning Tower of Pisa was laid.

The bell tower’s foundation was plagued with issues from the start and in the 1990s, there were fears that it would collapse altogether.

Now, at age 850, the bell tower is more stable than ever.

Andrea Maestrelli is the president of Opera della Primaziale Pisana, a 1000-year-old organisation that continues to care for Piazza del Duomo, where the Leaning Tower of Pisa and other historical monuments can be found.

Speaking at a press conference to mark the anniversary, Ms Maestrelli remarked that the tower was stable.

“Today the bell tower is a stable monument,” she said, according to CNN.

The 850th anniversary of the first stone being laid all those years ago will be marked with plenty of celebrations.

Saving the Leaning Tower of Pisa

In 1990, the tower was closed to the public due to concerns and British engineering expert John Burland was brought on to help stabilise the tower.

The issue was due to the foundation not being strong enough to hold the weight of the Tower, which weighs 14.453 tonnes.

In a 1999 issue of Ingenia, Professor Burland noted that just like with any conservation of a historic monument, the character of the building had to be preserved, along with its “history, craftsmanship and enigmas”.

“Thus any invasive interventions on the tower had to be kept to an absolute minimum and permanent stabilisation schemes involving propping or visible support were unacceptable – and in any case could have triggered the collapse of the fragile masonry,” he wrote.

“Any temporary stabilisation measure had to be noninvasive and reversible.”

There were several phases carried out under Professor Burland to prevent a collapse.

Counterweights were used, the monument was fitted with steel cables, wells were dug under the foundation and the foundation was reinforced.

The effort to preserve the tower wasn’t the first, but it was the first to be successful.

Following the project, the tilt was at a 4 degree inclination, just as it was 200 years ago.

Now, it is considered that the Leaning Tower of Pisa will be safe for at least another 200 years.

Back in 2011, Professor Burland travelled back to Italy to visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa to film a program for the BBC.

He described the project as both “very rewarding” and “challenging”, but one he will never forget.

“When I first started the project 20 years ago the tower was in a sorry state. It was close to collapse and covered in centuries of grime,” he said.

“Coming back to Pisa all these years later, it is amazing to see the tower restored to its former glory.

“It was a great moment when I showed my family around the tower, which is one of the proudest achievements in my career.”

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