After 20 years of thorough stabilisation efforts the scaffolding has been removed from the Leaning Tower of Pisa, meaning that the throngs of tourists that flock to the bell tower every day can now appreciate the column in all its glory.
The €27m project has lessened the tilt of the 14th century tower, which prior to reconstruction efforts was leaning an extra millimetre each year. Now 50cm straighter than it was, the famous column now sports a 3.99m lean, corrected from the 4.5m tilt it had several years previously. The tourist attraction and architectural masterpiece now stands at 56m tall at its highest point
Over the last two decades, restoration experts have been hard at work painstakingly scrubbing the tower free of the graffiti and dirt that has accumulated over the past centuries and restoring numerous blocks of marble that have fallen from its crown.
Gisella Cappoini, an architect at the conservation and restoration institute of Italy’s culture ministry explains: “Despite the monument’s surface area (7,000 sq m), we worked across it centimetre by centimetre.”
Interest in engineering work to prevent the tower from toppling began in 1964 when the Italian government requested aid in reducing the tilt, however it was considered that a certain angle should be retained to preserve the characteristic feature of this classic monument. As a result, 800tonnes of lead counterweights were applied to the raised base in an effort to counteract the softer foundations on the column’s lower side.
After the Leaning Tower was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, serious stabilisation plans were put in place and the area was closed to the public. The heavy bells were removed from the tower, cables roped around the third level and anchored to the ground, and 38 cb m of soil removed from the base of the raised edge to ‘correct’ the tilt to its 1838 position.
Originally constructed over several centuries from 1173 to 1372, recent stabilisation efforts are thought to have secured the lifetime of the bell tower by another 300 years.